Is my Vietnamese really that bad?

This morning I was in the center of District 5 (Cholon) to replace the seat cover on my motorbike (Smokey used it as a scratching pad).  As I was waiting, the owner of the shop started speaking with me.  He kept asking many questions and I just could not recognize the words.  They were very strange Vietnamese words.  Finally he walked away after I responded “Khong Hieu” to him.

About 10 minutes later, his son started speaking to me in English.  He asked how old I was and I answered back in Vietnamese.  He then turned to his father and spoke a different language.  I then realized that the owner was not speaking to me in Vietnamese at all.  The son later told me that he spoke Chinese to me.

What a relief, maybe my Vietnamese is not really that bad after all.  The question is, though, why did the owner speak to me in Chinese?


A very interesting day in Saigon…

5 comments on “Is my Vietnamese really that bad?”

  1. Preya

    Because you’re Amer-Asian. My brother-in-law is half Vietnamese, half white, and people in Vietnam invariably mistake him for being Chinese or Korean. Perhaps someone would care to offer another explanation?

  2. Thông

    Man I feel like that in Hanoi sometimes – me speaking Mien Nam (Southern Vietnamese) and all. Sometimes I feel like I’m speaking incorrectly but then I remember, oh yeah, Mien Bac, Mien Bac.

    People tend to think I look Chinese or Singaporean. Weird, I used to get Mexican back in the states. Must be my new glasses.

  3. kevmille


    🙂 My goal for 2007, more specifically for the Year of the Pig, is to converse more and more in Vietnamese. Words and pronunciations are beginning to stick in my head. I really want to speak Vietnamese.

  4. Kate

    Well because you were in Cho Lon, babe? I think you knew that Cho Lon here is just like China Town in US. They speak Chinese and Vietnamese as two main languages.

    If you wanna improve your Vietnamese… Find a new Vietnamese girl friend and ask her to practice with you. Or you don’t have to waste your time on a girlfriend, just try to communicate with your friend by Vietnamese.

    I recommend that I’ll talk to you by Vietnamese instead English. Do you agree?

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