Wednesday, June 29, 2005

How not to learn Vietnamese

This Saigontourist page on Vietnamese is so brain-dead stupid. Ms. Down and Out was aghast. She wanted me to write to the editor of one of the local rags. I could do that, but what's the point? It is not linked from the current Saigontourist site now. However, Google popped it up.

I love how it states - in one sentence - "The most difficult part about Vietnamese is the pronunciation;" and then confuses the issue by offering "try the phonetic spellings here". According to it, how do you say the numbers from 1 to 10? "Mot, Hi, Ba, Bawn, Num, Saow, Buy, Taam, Cheen, Mooy". It gets worse. There's a whole table of phrases, none of which give any indication about what tone is needed. For example, "Thank you" is "cám ơn", but the site provides the crippled "cam on" instead, and offers the nowhere-near-approximate phonetic spelling of "cam em". I can picture tourists trying to buy stuff with these phrases, and recieving only puzzled looks in return.

Phonetic spellings of these sort are useless. 99% of the time, one language contains sounds that have no equal nor equivalent in another language, and vice-versa. So why pretend otherwise?