Lazy Man’s Lingo

Good intentions don’t get you far, unless there are accompanying actions.

A case in point, for me, has been learning Vietnamese. The fact that its script uses the Roman alphabet – albeit with accent signs that would flummox a Viking – should make it easier to learn than, say, Thai. But it just hasn’t happened.

So I’ve learned to take some pretty severe shortcuts.


These include a wide range of gestures. For example, the first two fingers upside down for walking, a hand opening and closing for talking, a hand to the ear for listening. Flapping wings for chicken, horns from two index fingers on the head for beef. A lookout sign for ‘where’?

Then there’s sound, always good for a laugh at a market – snorting sounds for pig, quacking for ducks, etc. The seller will usually understand, and it’ll raise a grin.

Three phrases

Then there are three phrases which have got this Lazy Man a long way;

  • xin chào ( “sin chow” ) = hello.
  • gam on ( “garm oohn”) = thank you.
  • bao nhiêu ( “bow new”) = “how much?”.

When I get a little more serious, there are a ton of resources online for learning Vietnamese.

And then there’s always the lovely, and very patient, young woman at reception to practise on.

Today being Tết , or the Lunar New Year , I wonder if that would make a good ‘resolution’?

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