Category Archives: Site Update

China Year End Update


Dear friends and readers,

I’m almost finishing my semester in Nanjing, China, freezing in my no-heater dorm room, and waiting to take the final exam before I finally can pack my bag and fly south during the school break.

It has been interesting on the language front, to say the least.
As it turns out, Vietnamese has a lot of expressions, cultural references, and abstract words imported from the Chinese language and China back in the old days (Pre-1500s I assume).
I should just translate my Chinese textbook into Vietnamese, because Vietnamese textbooks seem to be clueless about teaching their own language to speakers of other languages.
That seems to be quite an undertaking, so I’ll take it slowly next year, while figuring out how to have regular access to WordPress in China.
The experience also quite opens my eyes to topics that I’ve never even considered talking about when explaining Vietnamese, and makes me weary of language teachers who don’t know anything other than their mother tongue and their own country’s culture.

As for my personal battle, I feel immensely grateful that Vietnamese does not use the Chinese script 汉字 or the Japanese 漢字 (royal pain!), so I don’t ever have to teach them.

On a side note, the school here has a number of Southeast Asian students, and I’ve discovered that the sound of the Thai language and Laos language sound a lot closer to Vietnamese than Chinese Mandarin to Vietnamese (even Chinese Cantonese doesn’t sound anything close to Vietnamese).
It could be really fun to ask a linguist specializing in Southeast Asian languages about this.

Ending on a positive note, I’ll be somewhere warm during the break! Hooray! No more freezing!

Happy New Year everyone!
Chúc cả nhà năm mới vui vẻ!


On Hiatus


Dear friends and readers,

I will arrive in China this weekend and stay for a year to learn the Chinese language.
I most likely will not have time to update this site during my travel.
The site will go on hiatus.
I expect to continue this site some time in the future, after I finish my study.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has visited the site and offered comments and suggestions.
It takes a long time to study a language and the journey is much more fun and manageable with a friend and teacher.

I hope the hiatus will not turn out to be permanent.
After all, there is still so much more to explore.

I wish everyone well in your study!

Best regards,



Sorry guys. This weekend I was tweaking the website and obviously messed up the navigation menu.
I will fix it and update later.
For now, bear with me.
Everything is still here. You just need to search for it.

If you know what you need, do an advanced Google search.
In the field for website, type is
In the search term box, type what you need.
The Search box on the right side of my site is apparently useless.
I can’t look up what I need on my own site, either.

Anyway, new semester has started. More audio is coming 🙂
Anyone who cannot join my class in NYC can follow along on the site.
We do have homework 🙂

Failed – Looking for Vietnamese Audio Teaching Materials


Much to my chagrin, most of the Vietnamese TV series that I found on YouTube have unbearably painful monotone dialogues (I only lasted 5 minute watching them).
I cannot, cannot use something so boring as teaching materials.
Learning a foreign language is hard work, but to top it with excruciatingly dull conversations can really kill all the enthusiasm for good.

Gotta change my approach somehow. I want to use only authentic, exciting audio for my class (per the Pop Up Chinese approach).
The fall semester is coming up and I really need enough teaching materials for a few months.
I will most likely post my class content here under the title Absolute Beginner.
And we will have audio to spar this time around. 🙂

PS: I listened to audio CDs that came with the textbooks before. They were the same quality as those textbooks, or worse. (If those textbooks were any good, I wouldn’t have started this website in the first place). The “dialogues” were so forced and robotic that if one learned from those CDs and spoke like them, no Vietnamese speaker would ever understand.
One of those unfortunate book and CDs were Beginner’s Vietnamese by Mynh Nghiem Boventer. If you know Vietnamese, you’ll see the problem right away.

Believe in


I’m dusting the blog just in time to celebrate May 1, International Worker’s Day, on which, in my (shoddy) understanding, the Vietnamese celebrates hard-working-ness, a quality that I, as a Vietnamese, seem to lack, as evidenced by this blog’s recent sporadic posting.

I’m catching up with a boat load of work. Americans describe this situation as “under pressure”, “under a deadline”, and to solve it, people sometimes “pull an all nighter”. The reason I’m “under the water” in the first place is that I procrastinated, which is “nước đến chân mới nhảy” in Vietnamese (literally “jump only when water’s reached the feet) (to which people sometimes respond with “chết đi” or “đáng đời” which roughly means “you deserve it”)

Anyway, in the meantime, if you have time to kill and can read Vietnamese, head over to, the premier online news outlet in Vietnam for the past hundreds of years (in their own words: nguồn tin điện tử hàng đầu Việt Nam trong vòng vài trăm năm qua). Great source of amusement. I usually double over laughing after reading their “news”.

I’m thinking of starting Intermediate Vietnamese in the summer. Same format as last year beginner series. Simple explanation of grammar with a supersized generous helping of examples.

Have fun! Work hard! And remember Mother’s Day is May 15. The one I need to remind the most is myself :))

Learn Vietnamese by Reading Comics?


Just curious: what if I scrap the (long, boring) lesson format I’ve been using up to now and switch to learning Vietnamese with comics instead?

Writing those long boring lessons feels like a pain in the neck as I have to sit at the computer and feel like I’m writing academic papers due tomorrow.

My only problem is where to find a steady supply of comics to teach from :))

It’s a whole lot more fun for me and you both, and the “lesson” quality won’t be any less (but most likely a lot more jumbled due to quality of comics).

Here’s what you can do to help out: send me stuff that you read (name of books, stories) and watch (movies, music, TV).

If it’s fun, it’ll make the list and appear up here to teach others Vietnamese.

Apply this 1 minute rule when sending me stuff:

For TV and movies, I’ll do anything less than 1 minute (maybe a cut of the full show, the part which you find interesting or don’t understand – I can probably download and cut)

Reading stuff: preferably something we can read in less than 1 minute.

Also, I just converted to the AJATT method of acquiring foreign languages. Really fun. Head over to his blog & check it out!

March 11 – Japan one year after the earthquake


March 11, one year after the earthquake in Japan.

In my Japanese class today, our Japanese teacher talked a little bit about how bad Japan current situation is.
The weather forecast now includes a radiation level report for each city, each town everyday.
It’s really sad.
The Economist (magazine) also runs an article this week on Japan about how the government was slow and unresponsive to the people’s need, how aid doesn’t arrive to those in need, and how the affected had to fend for themselves.
This happens in Japan, not a third world country.

From what I read about their daily life, about the description of the deserted towns, the survivor’s stories and their guilt, it is all the horror apocalyptic manga (Japanese comic) that I ever read had come to life. The people there long have the notion that Japan is living on borrowed time, and that one day a catastrophe will end it all.

My heart goes out to the people in Japan. Keep on fighting! がんばれ