After completing the Online Vietnamese Language Course for Beginners, speaking Vietnamese is about building area-specific vocabulary and learning Vietnamese Grammar. In course 1, you learned how to recognize and say the Vietnamese alphabets, vowels, tones, and beginning consonant clusters. Then, in course 2, you progressed to learning how to say words with various diphthong and triphthong combinations. And finally, in course 3, you learned the ending consonant sounds and any applicable rules.
Whether you learned on your own with our Vietnamese Language Course Textbooks or in the Online Classroom, you are already reading and speaking Vietnamese! Now, you can continue learning more about sentence structure as you continue building your vocabulary. As you continue reading and speaking Vietnamese, you will discover some of the following unique aspects of Vietnamese Grammar.
1. Analytic Language
An analytic language is a language that primarily describes the relationship between words in sentences by using “helper” words and adjusting the word order of the sentence. This contrasts with modifying the word itself (inflections) to express grammatical changes in tense (past, present, future) or person (first, second, third) to just mention a couple.
2. Tonal Language
A perceptually distinct unit of sound is called a phoneme. Speaking Vietnamese requires you to use perceptually distinct tones. Some people shy away from the tones. However, all verbalized languages use intonation to convey emotion or express emphasis. Speaking Vietnamese requires you to use Vietnamese tones to distinguish between words that have visually similar consonants and vowels.
3. Head Directionality
The Vietnamese Language uses a head-initial directionality. The head of a phrase is the word that determines the set of rules, principles, and processes that will govern the structure of that particular phrase or sentence. While a complement is the word, phrase, or verb clause that is required to complete the meaning of an expression. So, the head of a phrase will precede its complement.
The Vietnamese Language uses a subject–verb–object (SVO) order. Therefore, when speaking Vietnamese, the subject comes first, the verb will be second, and the object third. Then, any modifiers will either follow or preceded the words they modify.
Nouns can be modified with other words which can result in complex noun phrases. Modifiers include quantifiers, prepositional phrases, demonstratives, classifiers, and other words like another noun or verb. The modifiers are placed along with the head noun or head noun phrase. However, there are certain modifier restrictions based on the subclass of the noun.
The Vietnamese Language uses an impressive noun classifier system. Most classifiers do not have an English translation which contributes to language learning difficulties. There are as many as 200 Vietnamese Language classifiers that range from classifying an object as animate or inanimate to the shape of an object.
- cái: used for most inanimate objects
- trái: used for globular objects (Earth, fruit)
The term pro-drop is a shortened form of “pronoun-dropping”. As the name implies, a pro-drop language is a language in which certain pronouns may be omitted when they can be contextually inferred.
8. Pro-Copula Drop
The term copula is a word or phrase used to connect or link two things together. For example, an English speaker will say: “The balloon is red”. In this way, the word “is” is used to link the balloon with the color red. On the other hand, a Vietnamese speaker may simply say, “Balloon red”.
Wh-movement has to do with the placement or arrangement of words in a question. In the English Language, most question words start with a wh- word such as who, what, when, where, and why. In the Vietnamese Language, the wh- questions words often move to the end of the sentence.
- Bạn (You) muốn (want) ăn (eat) gì (what)? – What do you want to eat?
10. Serial Verb Construction
Serial verb constructions are quite common in the Vietnamese language. The is the event in which which two or more verbs or verb phrases are placed together in a single phrase. A typical serial verb will consist two or more consecutive verbs.
- luôn luôn – always
- tình yêu thương – love
If you know the sound rules, you can start learning how to speak Vietnamese by reading our Vietnamese to English and English to Vietnamese Language Diary. To learn the sound rules for speaking Vietnamese, enroll in our self-paced Online Vietnamese Language Course or Self-Study Course Textbooks.