John Pasden at Sinosplice shares this cute conversation between a bilingual kid in the US and a Chinese adult:
Adult: What do you most like doing with your family?
The key to understanding this exchange is knowing that 做 (zuò), the verb meaning “to do,” sounds identical to the verb 坐 (zuò), which means “to sit.” Add into this that many verbs in Chinese don’t require an additional preposition like their English counterparts (for example, we’d say “sit on” rather than just “sit”), and the child’s answer starts to make a lot of sense.
Great example of the challenges understanding spoken Chinese. Using characters this mixup could never happen.
Then enter Vietnamese, where even in the written language everything looks the same:
Chào em = Hello
Cháo em = You porridge
An American college professor asked Vietnamese-American student Phuc Bui Diem Nguyen to change her name:
Could you Anglicize your name. Phuc Bui sounds like an insult in English.
Understandably, she did not think this was a good idea and so in a subsequent e-mail he would go so far as to explain:
Your name in English sounds like Fuck Boy. If I lived in Vietnam and my name in your language sounded like Eat a Dick, I would change it to avoid embarrassment both on my part and on the part of the people who have to say it.
Phuc Bui’s sister Quynh shared the exchange on Instagram from where it was picked up across the globe.
Now Vietnamese names can be tricky. But suggesting a student to change her name…
As for the professor: Should he ever visit Vietnam, he might want to check out Phuc Long Coffee & Tea 😄.
The Max Planck Society:
Their study has revealed that languages with a wide range of tone pitches are more prevalent in regions with high humidity levels. In contrast, languages with simpler tone pitches are mainly found in drier regions. This is explained by the fact that the vocal folds require a humid environment to produce the right tone.
I’m from a very non-humid climate. Maybe that’s the reason why it’s so hard for me to learn Vietnamese…
Stephen Anderson and Karl Fast in Figure It Out: Getting from Information to Understanding:
All cultures start with the ability to distinguish dark things from light things. This is followed by the recognition of red. After that, it might be the addition of yellow or green. And blue always seems to come last. Not every language follows the exact same path, but they adhere to this same general pattern.
One of the many odd things of the Vietnamese language is that both “blue” and “green” are “màu xanh”. In case you need to differentiate between the two you would add something like “of the sky” (màu xanh da trời) or “of the tree” (màu xanh lá cây).
I had one Vietnamese teacher that would mark the traffic light with “blue light” and the Korean presidential offices with “green house”.