Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tones are hard.

We began studying Vietnamese with one teacher from the south. He spoke no English which was good to have to dig through things rather than running to the dictionary, but we "wasted" a lot of hours and ended up going to the dictionary anyway. At that time (1963) there was little study material. Our text book was an old course developed by a Christian Missionary Alliance missionary. But, it worked and you couldn't finish the books without having a religious and Biblical vocabulary. Anyway, our first test was after about three months. After two months, Pauline told me I wasn't say my tones correctly. Of course I argued with her. But, the truth of the matter was I was not hearing the tones correctly and therefore not saying the words correctly. About three weeks before the test was scheduled, I began to hear how bad my tones were. Needless to say I did a crash course in repeating after the teacher. I don't know if I passed the test, but the mission let me go on to the next book. I still murder the tones and to be sure I am right I have to memorize the word with the tone. I would never trust my hearing to repeat a word correctly. Actually the Vietnamese understand me more in context as I do them. Tones are hard.

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