Category Archives: Culture

Vietnam Videos

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Interesting video tours of Hanoi and Sai Gon produced by Intercontinental hotel.
This is pure entertainment in English so I’m not going to run my usual headache-inducing grammar commentary on it 🙂


I have to admit, Hanoi and Sai Gon both look a whole lot shabbier than other cities that the InterContinental video series features.
It would be really fun to be in Vietnam, take my own photos/videos and provide my own commentary.
It’ll be more from a long term, local perspective rather than passing by tourist.

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Who bought the scooter?

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Please see the original by artist Nguyễn Thành Phong on his Facebook page here. This page comes from a really cool comic series called K0 còi which aims to raise traffic awareness for người Hà Nội by họa sĩ Thành Phong. 🙂

xe

mẹ

mua

đua

mẹ

đánh

vehicle (car, scooter, etc.)

I (mom)

buy

race

mom

hit (punish)

So the mom told her (grown-up?) son: The scooter that I (mom) bought (xe mẹ mua), if you use dare to join a race on the street (đua), I’ll hit you (mẹ đánh).

In term of grammar, it’s a pretty good example of relative pronoun “that” (or more accurately, the lack of it). There are other points to discuss but let’s just focus on the relative pronoun “that” for today. Keep in mind that Vietnamese grammar does not correspond directly to English grammar (that’s my way of saying “if the language doesn’t make sense, it’s none of my problem”).

Cái áo

em

mới

mua

đắt

quá

Shirt

I

just

bought

expensive

too

Relative pronoun without “that”: (Cái áo) (em mới mua) (đắt quá) – the shirt I just bought is too expensive.

Cô bé

anh

gặp

hôm trước

không

chịu

cho

anh

số điện thoại

The girl

I (male)

met

the other day

not

agree to

give

me (male)

phone number

(Cô bé) (anh gặp hôm trước) (không chịu cho anh số điện thoại) – The girl that I met the other day wouldn’t give me her phone number.

Hiệu sách

không

quyển sách

()

em

muốn

mua

Bookstore

not

have

the book

(that)

I

want to

buy

Relative pronoun with “that”: “that” in Vietnamese would be equivalent to “.” “” is a Swiss army knife of Vietnamese words. It is used to mean many things. Its usage as “that”, the English relative pronoun, is one.

Hiệu sách không có (quyển sách) ( em muốn mua). – The bookstore does not have the book that I want to buy.

Cái anh diễn viên

()

em

rất

thích

đi lấy vợ

mất rồi

The actor

(that)

I

very much

like

got married

already

(Cái anh diễn viên) ( em rất thích) (đi lấy vợ mất rồi). – The actor that/whom I like very much got taken already (he got married).

And here’s the parting shot. You can figure it out yourself!

sắm” means the same thing as “mua“, and “cắm” means to pawn, “chém” means to chop, like pork chop.

PS: In terms of cultural background, this is common practice in Vietnam for the grown up child to depend on his/her parents financially and/or live with the parents well after graduating from college. For the mom to buy her grown up son a scooter is not that uncommon in Vietnam (a car is still extravagant though).

K0 còi comics series

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My favorite Vietnamese artist, Nguyễn Thành Phong, just released a new comics series to raise public awareness about traffic etiquette for Hanoian. You can see the series on his Facebook page here. I think it’s awesome.

It’s been a long time since I last found exciting stuff that comes out of Hà Nội and probably a wake up call for me to start updating the blog again.

I’ve been MIA, especially with usable content for quite a while now. One reason is that I was quite occupied at work. The other is that I have been mulling over which direction I wanted the blog to follow. If I venture into Intermediate level, I wonder how many readers I will confuse. This was never intended as a primary source to learn the language, only as a reference or points to discuss with your teacher. It’s a free hobbyist blog, which I put a lot of time into. Now imagine people who complain about my blog but don’t have any good suggestion or solution.

Anyway, whichever way the wind blows. Let Intermediate level begins. If you find it too difficult, there’s always the previous lessons which are easier, or visit everydayviet.com for absolute beginner lessons.

Hà Nội

không

vội

được

đâu

In Hanoi

not

rush

possible

Hà Nội không vội được đâu. – In Hanoi, it’s not possible to rush.

If you live in a Hanoi for a full year, any year during the last 10 years, you most likely have lived through a flood which submerged part of the city. 

But first, a little memory jogging.

(1) Remember the question “Anh khỏe không?”

For “yes”, you answer ““, and for “no”, you answer “không“?

(2) Remember that “được” means it’s ok or possible or you have permission to do something (it also has other usages).

Cái này

ăn

được

không?

Được,

cứ

ăn

đi.

This

eat

possible

Yes,

go ahead

eat

Cái này có ăn được không? Is it possible to eat this thing? (Is it edible?)

Được, cứ ăn đi. – Sure, go ahead (eat).

Anh

đi chợ

hộ

em

được không?

Không được,

anh

đang

bận

lắm

You (male)

go grocery shopping

as a favor to

me

ok?

No, I cannot

I (male)

-ing

busy

very

Anh đi chợ hộ em được không? Can you go grocery shopping for me?

Không được, anh đang bận lắm. No, I cannot. I’m really busy right now.

The point that I want to highlight to day is the structure “It’s not possible to do something…”.

Hà Nội không vội được đâu. – In Hanoi, it’s not possible to rush.

which in Vietnamese is both “someone + + do something + được đâu” and “someone + không + do something + được đâu

How come “có được đâu” and “không được đâu” both mean “it’s not possible…”?

And that’s where Vietnamese grammar doesn’t match up with English’s any more. You’ll just have to learn it. No easy way out. Don’t shoot the messenger (me). In particular, pay attention to the “đâu” at the end. If “đâu” doesn’t mean “where” (“ở đâu“), then it usually signifies a negative sentence.

Here are some examples:

Hôm qua

bão

to,

máy bay

cất cánh

được đâu.

Yesterday

storm

big,

airplane

takes off

not possible

Hôm qua bão to, máy bay có cất cánh được đâu – Yesterday there was a big storm. The airplane couldn’t take off.

Ăn

nhiều

như thế

không

giảm

cân

được đâu

Eat

so much

like that

decrease

kilogram

not possible

Ăn nhiều như thế không giảm cân được đâu – (If you) eat so much like that, it’s not possible to lose weight (giảm cân).

Romeo

quên

được

Juliet

đâu

not

forget

possible

Romeo có quên được Juliet đâu – Romeo couldn’t forget Juliet

sợ

ma

quá

ngủ

được đâu

He/she

scared of

ghost

too much

sleep

not possible

Nó sợ ma quá có ngủ được đâu – He/she is so afraid of ghost that he/she wasn’t able to sleep.

PS:

(1) if you have good eyesight, you’ve probably spotted “xí nghiệp thoát nước số 4” on the yellow sign. It means “water drainage facility No. 4”

xí nghiệp

thoát

nước

số 4

facility, factory

escape

water

No. 4

(2) to be on a diet is “ăn kiêng“. Ex: em đang ăn kiêng để giảm cân (I’m on a diet in order to lose weight).

Cố gắng học tiếng Việt!

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Bi hài chuyện Tây học tiếng Việt

I ran across this article on Dan Tri online news site and have been doubling over laughing.
If you don’t know enough Vietnamese yet, just Google Translate and join in on the fun.
The article is about hilarious misuses and mistakes that students make when studying Vietnamese.
The article’s title translates into something as “schadenfreude when foreigners learn Vietnamese”.

I have to say, it’s refreshing to see how inconsistent Vietnamese is as a language from the perspective of a language student. Learning a language is as much as learning its culture and there’s bound to be something that cannot be translated across different cultures and just plainly bamboozles the newcomers.

For everyone out there still struggling or feeling embarrassed when something goes wrong in Vietnamese, take it easy, have a laugh, have fun. It’s just a language. You’ll get there eventually!

Ô Long Viện – Black Dragon Martial Arts Temple

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This is a comic for fans of martial arts and period drama.
I’ve been hooked on to this series for a few months now.
It’s absolutely hilarious. The story is set in a martial art temple with 2 teachers and 2 students.
The only catch? It requires advanced Vietnamese (lots of ancient vocabulary).
If you can read it, it’s totally worth a try.
Ô Long Viện

20121120-001637.jpg
20121120-001646.jpg
If you don’t know enough Vietnamese yet, here’s an excerpt (which doesn’t have the main characters).
20121122-130020.jpg

Click to play audio

Cloud: Này điện hạ mặt trời (hey, Your Majesty the Sun)
Sun: Gì thế, mây ngốc (What’s up, silly cloud?)
Cloud: Tôi… muốn tỉ thí với điện hạ (I… want to duel with you)
Sun: hé hé, ngươi dám…? (hehe, you dare?)
Cloud: Tối nay tôi đợi ở chỗ này, không đến coi như thua (This evening I will wait here, the one that doesn’t show up loses)
Cloud: Hẹn buổi tối nhé (Let’s meet in the evening)
Sun: Ơ…này… Ta… (er…hey… I…)

Instant Holiday Greetings in Vietnamese

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T’is the season to load up on holiday greetings!

1. Chúc mừng năm mới!
Happy New Year.
This is the easiest greeting.
If you remember nothing else, hold on to this one.
It works for both Jan 1 New Year and Lunar New Year (Tết), and you don’t need to know any pronouns.

2. Chúc (anh) năm mới vui vẻ!
Wish you a happy new year. Replace (anh) with the appropriate pronoun and you have your greeting.

3. Chúc (em) Giáng Sinh vui vẻ!
Merry Christmas!
4. Chúc (chị) Nô-en vui vẻ!
Merry Christmas!

Christmas is known as lễ Giáng Sinh or lễ Nô-en (from the French word Noel).
Chúc – to wish
Vui vẻ – happy

Chúc (you) Giáng Sinh / Nô-en vui vẻ!
As usual, use the appropriate Vietnamese pronoun for “you”.

Bonus:
5. Chúc mừng sinh nhật!
Happy birthday!
6. Chúc (anh) sinh nhật vui vẻ!
Wish you a happy birthday!

Note:
1. For the Lunar New Year (Tết, Tết Nguyên Đán), aside from the simple chúc mừng năm mới, there are many more elaborate Vietnamese Tết greetings here.
2. If you’re completely new and don’t know any pronouns, learn to address people properly in Vietnamese here.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Eat a ton of turkey today!

For your amusement, the Vietnamese has this popular children’s song about chicken (close enough to the turkey). It’s been parodied so many times that I don’t even know the original lyrics any more.
It’ll give my soft-hearted friend a heart attack, so I’ll spare her today 🙂

Gà mà không gáy là con gà chiên.
Gà mà hay gáy là con gà điên.
Đi lang thang trong sân , bắt con gà , bỏ vô nồi.
Mua 2 lon Tiger , nhắm chân gà , nhắm chân gà.

Gà mà không gáy là con gà gay.
Gà mà không gáy là con gà toi.
Đi lang thang trong sân, bắt con gà, ướp tiêu hành,
Ăn xong lăn quay ra, chết tui rùi, cúm gia cầm.

The rooster that doesn’t roost is the fried one
The rooster that roost too often is the cuckoo one
Wander around the yard, catch a rooster, put into the pot
Buy 2 Tiger beers, eat chicken leg, eat chicken leg

The rooster that doesn’t roost is the troubled / gay one
The rooster that doesn’t roost is a goner
Wander around the yard, catch a rooster, marinate with pepper scallion
Finish eating and collapse, I’m done for, (I got) avian flu