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Thy Pham explains similarities between English and Vietnamese

First-year Feather reporter and AmeriStudentThy Pham-Nguyen is originally from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. The senior international student plans on attending Fresno State in the fall.

Thy Pham-Nguyen | The Feather Online

The Nha Trang Aerial Tramway in Vietnam is  the longest sea-crossing aerial tramway in the world.

With some scholars estimating that there are over 7,000 spoken languages globally, the benefits of learning a new language will unlock the culture of those who speak it. That’s why learning a foreign language at school is a “must” in many native English-speaking countries and many will find value in Vietnamese.

According to the Accredited Language Services, English ranks as the world’s “most influential language,” as its speakers use a language that 1.5 billion other people, equivalent to 20 percent of the global population, in the world use. 

Those who speak another language besides English, such as Vietnamese, can talk to another billion people (14 percent of the global population). Thus, with both English and Chinese skills, users will be able to communicate with more than a quarter of the world’s population. 

This is the most basic advantage of being a multilingual speaker. However, there are still other interesting reasons why students should know two or more languages.

  1. Improve memory.

According to I Will Teach You Language, many studies have demonstrated the benefits of learning another language, regardless of your age. Improving memory, increasing concentration and reducing the risk of cognitive decline due to age, are only some of the benefits of bilingualism or multiple languages.

Based on The Brain Fit, the operation of memory is often developed very early, so if you start learning a foreign language from a young age it will be very beneficial for your memory. Not to mention, when you’re older, it will be harder for you to spend time learning a foreign language, so it’s best to start while still in school.

  1. Creates intimate relationships and multicultural friendships.

Those who are bilingual are often seen as people with a double personality – one for the first language, another for the second language. Learning a foreign language means bringing you to the cultural values ​​of the language while living in two different cultures will make you more empathetic, creating opportunities to engage with different cultures

  1. Your travels will be more complete.
Thy Pham-Nguyen | The Feather Online

A display of the poetic sunrise and vitality of Nha Trang beach, Vietnam

This does not need too many explanations, because everyone knows, a trip is only complete when you can understand and talk to the natives. Speaking the local language will then help you come closer to the activities, culture of the destination and help you discover things many people have never known and enjoy a better experience.

  1. Speaking multiple languages ​​makes you more appealing.

Based on Bustle, a recent 2016 survey found that 71 percent of adults who can speak a second language are rated “more attractive” than those who speak one language. “Learning another language will help you to become more skillful and sophisticated, which are attractive qualities in any person,” Miriam Plieninger, Director of Didactics at Babbel, told Bustle. 

“The more you study languages,” Plieninger said, “the better you are at communicating, and the more you communicate in a new language, the more confidence you build. Together, communication and confidence create a powerful attraction.”

  1. Multilingual speakers are more likely to get a better job

According to NBC News, speaking two or more languages ​​is a very good skill for a job. Surveys show that employers often value employees who speak more than one language. This is even a factor to help you achieve a higher salary than other employees. 

California immigration adds to second language demand

Based on Pacific Standard, half of California’s children come from immigrant families. Today, half of school-age children in California are the children of immigrants, many of whom are native-born. Sixty percent of children five and under in the state speak a language other than English at home. Seven million Californians also say they cannot speak English well. This strongly proves that California needs to take bilingualism seriously.

Thy Pham-Nguyen | The Feather Online

Snails grilled with onion and cheese is a very popular dish in Vietnam.

According to the Los Angeles Times, court signs must be posted in multiple languages, legal documents translated and court-ordered services, such as a programs on alcohol abuse, must be offered in the languages of the participants.

Los Angeles court officials worked with federal authorities to bring in more interpreters, and today the Superior Court is considered the most advanced in the state in providing language help. The languages for which interpreters are needed are Spanish, Vietnamese, Korean, Mandarin, Farsi, Cantonese, Russian, Tagalog, Arabic and Punjabi. 

California now has about 2,000 qualified court interpreters but still too few to handle the demand. Getting certified is a hurdle. Only about 10 percent pass the state examination. 

A Case for Vietnamese

According to a Sept. 13, 2018, article from, more than 1.3 million Vietnamese people reside in the United States. The Vietnamese population makes up three percent of the nation’s 44.5 million immigrants and represents the sixth-largest foreign-born group in the country.

Currently, 40 percent of Vietnamese people in the US live and work in California. When talking about Vietnamese people, most foreigners remark that Vietnamese is not really difficult for learning basic communication but obviously, learning another language is never really easy at all.

When learning the Vietnamese language, one must start with the alphabet. The Vietnamese alphabet consists of 29 letters. Vietnamese does not have w and z, j, as in English. But in particular, the advantage of learning to write Vietnamese letters is that the Vietnamese alphabet is almost entirely like the English alphabet, unlike Chinese or Japanese. 

Vietnamese is monosyllabic so syllables are pronounced separately. So there will be words that have one syllable like vui (vu-wiy) (happy). But there are many words composed of two syllables: xin chào (seen chow) (hello), cảm ơn (kam uhn) (thank you). 

Therefore, foreigners who learn Vietnamese need to learn to pronounce well. Firstly, they need to pronounce each syllable well. For example, “cảm ơn” must pronounce clearly “kam” and “uhn”. For beginners, foreigners should speak slowly and clearly with each syllable, then speak faster. This shows that pronunciation is very important in Vietnamese because if one word is wrong, it’s difficult for Vietnamese people to understand. However, if some grammar is incorrect, Vietnamese people can still understand the speaker.

The nature of Vietnamese grammar consists of five accent marks:  ՝ (ex: à), ´ (ex: á), ∼ (ex: ã), . (ex: ạ), ੭ (ex: ả). The tone will make the meaning of a word change. Because of the intricacies of intonation, listening and using words correctly can be difficult.

In my experience, a person who likes to talk and communicate often learns a foreign language better than someone who likes to study grammar and learn from books. Therefore, the more you communicate with people, the more you can train your ability to hear and reflect language.

But of course, students must have a desire to communicate in order to learn, so stopping to correct pronunciation, take notes of words and phrases and sentence patterns to memorize is important. In addition, learning to listen and speak through Vietnamese songs or comedy videos can also help with language acquisition.

Thy Pham-Nguyen | The Feather Online

Vietnamese coconut jelly dessert with coconut water on the side.

Best time to  learn a foreign language

You may have heard someone say that learning many foreign languages ​​at the same time will lead to confusion or ineffectiveness. Most scholars agree that the best time to start learning a second or third language is by the age of 10 in order to be as proficient as a native speaker. However, through high school years, students will learn faster than adults.

While one may never be as skilled as a native speaker, a foreign language learner can still become confident, skillful and fluent in multiple languages, even if it isn’t their mother tongue! Because learning languages ​​is continual, constantly updating according to the times and cultural changes, there will always be more to learn.

The Fluent U website offers tips to help students succeed in language learning. For more information, check out Learn multiple languages at once and two languages at once.

For other articles written by Thy Pham-Nguyen, read COLUMN: Support measures to stop Asian COVID-19 racism, COLUMN: Vietnam is more than a war and COLUMN: International student recounts struggles, anxieties from foreign country.

For more Feather articles, read Earth Day promotes climate change awareness, raises support through livestreams and COVID-19 outbreak forces US farms out of business, food waste dumps.

Thy Pham can be reached via email.

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