1. The alphabet
When starting to study a new language, everybody will have to start with the alphabet. In the Vietnamese alphabet, there are 29 letters. W,z and j are letters in English alphabet which are not in Vietnamese alphabet
- Vowels system: There are 9 monophthongs ( a,e ê, i, o, ô, u, ơ, ư), 3 diphthongs (iê, uô, ươ) and 2 short vowels (ă, â) in Vietnamese
- Consonants system: There are 17 single consonants b, c, d, đ, g, h, k, l, m, n, p, q, r, s, t, v, x) and 9 couple consonants (gh, kh, nh, ph, th, ch, tr, ngh, ng)
When starting to study a new language, firstly learners should know how to read the alphabet of that language. Therefore, it is essential for students to study reading Vietnamese alphabet. Learners can pronounce letters correctly. For example, when a learner sees a word with “a”, he/she will know to pronounce with opened “a’ combining with a consonant. If learners can remember exactly how to pronounce Vietnamese vowels and consonants, they can read any Vietnamese words perfectly without understanding the meaning. However, it is not necessary for learners to focus on memorizing names of letters such as: mờ, nờ, pờ,…. This is a same point with other languages. Teachers have to synchronize the way to read Vietnamese alphabet. Now, reading sounds of the letters is the best and most common way to read the Vietnamese alphabet instead of reading the name of the alphabet
When learners study Vietnamese alphabet, it’s better for them to rewrite Latin letters, in especial for Chinese, Japanese, Korean, etc students not using Latin letters
2. How to pronounce Vietnamese
Vietnamese is single syllable, so syllables are pronounced separately. There are words with one syllable such as sách, vở, etc. However, there are words with more two syllables such as vui vẻ, hạnh phúc, etc. To pronounce Vietnamese well, learners need to pronounce each syllable and group of syllables. For instance, cảm ơn need pronouncing cảm and ơn properly. For foreigners, when starting learning Vietnamese, they should speak slowly, and pronounce each syllable clearly. And then they can speak quicker. If learners do not pronounce correctly, Vietnamese can not understand them. However, if learners use wrong grammar, they still understand them. That is the reason why pronunciation is very important for studying Vietnamese.
Tones part is the hardest part for foreigners to learn. Vietnamese is one of the languages having the most tones in the world. There are six tones in Vietnamese including ngang, huyền, hỏi, sắc, ngã. When a student pronounce wrong tones, he/she will make words with different meanings such as bàn # bán # bạn
For reading and recognizing tones, teachers have to show a diagram so that students can visualize how to pronounce each tone. This is the key for learners to pronounce Vietnamese correctly and communicate like Vietnamese native speakers. Thus, Teachers need frequently practice tones for students in not only the first class but also during a course. Teachers should speak slowly and use hands to describe tones for students to rememorize easily and try to pronounce tones correctly. It is necessary to combine tones exercises with writing exercises. For example, teachers can ask students to fill in tones of words in paragraphs or read for students to write simple sentences and paragraphs. So they will memorize tones. And they know that they have to speak correct tones. This is a very important rule for listening and speaking Vietnamese . Students should exercise some tones exercises everyday because they will feel bored with the type of exercise. An frequent exercise is crucial
For spelling, It is not necessary for foreign learners to learn how to spell Vietnamese as Vietnamese students. For example, huyền = hờ uyên huyên huyền huyền. They can not remember the complicated rules. In addition, The rules are not useful. Therefore, teachers only recommend them that one Vietnamese syllable is formed by matching rhyme and sounds ( rhyme= vowels + consonants). The phonetic alphabet is a good exercise to support for studying spelling
3. Listening skills
For level A, learners’d better start from listening to Vietnamese teacher as much as possible. Teachers usually have to repeat asking learned forms and words in real cases ( the more real cases teachers can give, the more good studying results students can get).
After lesson 7, learners can start to study simple audio. Firstly, the teacher can make record of her voice or other teachers.
After finishing level A, In general normal student can have basic listening and speaking skills. After that, teachers have to push listening exercises to higher levels such as listening to songs and conversations at level B. For level C, It is essential to listen to long audio and start listening to radio. Learners should practice speaking and pronunciation during practicing the listening skill because speaking skill is an important supporting skill. If a learner studies to get a certificate, he/she has to practice all three types of listening: listen and fill in words, listen and choose true and false answers, listen and choose the best answer. However, If a student studies to communicate or join in seminars, he/she need practice real listening type ( listen and choose the answers). Teachers have to know the level of their learners so that they can give effective listening exercise, otherwise learners will be bored because of difficult exercises.
Listening studying experiences: Learners should record teacher’s audio and listen to the audio again and again due to the bad quality of CDs. They can listen to Vietnamese songs, if they would like to. Especially, the more students communicate and practice, the better language reaction they can get. So the higher Vietnamese they study, the more Vietnamese conversation they should make. Speaking is to learning, therefore teachers need stop to correct pronunciation, grammar, etc mistakes. And then, students’d better take note phrases, forms they have to memorize. According to my experience, a person who would like to communicate will learn foreign languages better than the person who would like to learn from books.
4. Speaking skills:
For level B, If students study from books only, it will be hard for them to progress because there are a lot of types of grammar. So students should communicate with teachers more and more. Teachers also need mention new forms which learner do not know and give explanation to them
For level C, It is important to use slang, common words and natural ways to communicate. When studying Vietnamese, Students should not only focus on grammar. So they should not do too many exercises. Teachers need explain grammar to students and let them practice speaking till they can use grammar effectively without doing too many grammar exercises. According to my experiences, students who focus on grammar can listen well, but they react very slowly. They always try to speak with correct grammar. And they are afraid of making mistakes. So the rule to help students improve speaking skill is that teachers need to motivate them to speak Vietnamese “ DO NOT BE AFRAID OF MAKING MISTAKES. KEEP SPEAKING”
Translator: Pham Thanh Thuy