Friday, April 9, 2010

Driven to Learn

Yesterday began my long, exhilarating and (it is to be hoped) organic process of learning the Vietnamese language. From Markham Public Libraries I borrowed two materials: a Teach Yourself Vietnamese CD/book package; Part A of Pimsleur Language Programs' Complete Vietnamese course.

I made my way gingerly from the library to the car which I was using. I was struck by a dilemma as I lowered myself to sit in the driver's seat. Should I use the Pimsleur CD while driving? Excepting the drive to the library, I had not driven a motor vehicle in over a month prior. It was also twilight out. These were both good reasons to focus on my driving and not on the finer points of Vietnamese tones. Very good reasons indeed. Yet not good enough to detract from the awesomeness of shouting "Hiểu!" ("understand!") while revving the gas pedal.

The Pimsleur programme works, from the user's point of view, very simply. Native speakers give you words and phrases to repeat as closely as possible so that you can hear and feel how to produce the desired sounds. Grammar is learned incidentally - nobody learns how to conjugate the verb "to eat" in fourteen different ways. One picks up the grammar just from learning different phrases and having to think about differences between them. I think that saying words and phrases aloud helps one to remember them as well. Each lesson takes about thirty minutes, which is great. The only caveat is that one should choose a place where no one else is likely to be within earshot of the learner.

So the Vietnamese lesson (more accurately, the first twenty-one minutes of it) went very well. The Vietnamese tones which once mystified me are now not so scary. I can also say some words and phrases now. As for my driving, there is a different story. I did not get into any accidents - for that, I have only the vigilance of other drivers to thank. But, if I did get into an accident, then I would have been able to save my ass by saying "Tôi không hiểu tiếng Anh!" ("I don't understand English!").

1 comment:

  1. nice! i just started on my tamil alphabet book, and learned that there are five letters in tamil that approximate the english letter 'n.'