Published: November 30th 2009November 30th 2009
"The golden key that unlocks a thousand doors".... even this may not be enough praise for the value of learning the local dialect when traveling. When combined with with a smile and an open personality, the thousand doors easily becomes a million and more.
I have been here nearly one week so far, and the initial rush of being back in asia is beginning to wear off.
Although I cannot altogether discount the 3 months of intense study I undertook before I arrived, I would never have expected to learn conversational vietnamese as fast as I have. The language itself is very difficult the pick up for the average foreigner, containing many subtle sounds and nuances not to mention the tones. My studies haved only helped slightly in that aspect since I was not fortunate enough to have possessed any recordings that accuratly represented the local accent.
The most amazing thing about learning vietnamese is that I can hold (a short) conversation with nearly any person on the street, and I often end up being invited for a free cup of iced coffee in this way. On most days I probably speak to at least 100 random people here, especially bored security guards and Xe Om drivers. This gives me plenty of chance to practice the basics of the language and I have recently graduated to the ability of being able to ask questions of my own (other than the ones they are bound to ask me)
The common questions I am asked here constantly are (in any order): what country are you from? how old are you? how long have you been here? how long will you stay? where do you stay here? what is your name? how old are you? what are you doing here? where did you learn vietnamese? do you have a wife/girlfriend ----Along with a few others that are not so frequently asked such as: what do your parents do for a living?
My next task is to take the difficult leap beyond the basics to semi-fluency.
I have payed for my hotel for one more week, and so the easy practice continues. I am told the dialect are much harder to understand outside of the city, and that of course is where I will be for the next six months. Wandering from place to place on foot, sleeping in the open, eating the simplest of foods. and living the life of a true wanderer. This may sound like madness to some people, and in truth it may be. But I feel it will come naturally to me, as I am already a little mad!