Tag Archives: learn vietnamese through comics

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).