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Elementary Vietnamese: Revised Edition 2nd Edition

3.8 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 067-6251833690
ISBN-10: 0804833699
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Tuttle Publishing; 2 edition (September 15, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0804833699
  • ISBN-13: 978-0804833691
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 0.8 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,138,573 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

I'm a teacher of Vietnamese and have been working for about 10 years in teaching Vietnamese as a second language. Otherwise, I'm a linguist who has several researches on Second language acquisition. The first time I had this book in my hands, I had a very good impression on the book: well designed, correct English, the author introduced as a professional in teaching Vietnamese.

It is true that the book has many positive points: instrumental words, such as final sentence particles, modal verbs, empty words have been clearly explained; the theories of Vietnamese pronunciation in the book show that the author has strong knowledges of Vietnamese phonetics, each unit has many exercises.

HOWEVER, in my opinion, it is impossible for learners to teach themselve with this book. Why?

1. The book focuses too much on Vietnamese linguistics. It's rather a Vietnamese linguitics textbook than a Vietnamese communicative language book. It's really hard for a normal learner (I mean "normal learner" is not a linguist") to understand phonetic definitions of the kind of "G is a velar voiceless fricative consonant" or "Nh is a palatal nasal consonant, which is created with the tip of the tongue being lowered toward the lower teeth and the back of the tongue rising toward the hard palate and contacting it: nha, nhờ, nhủ." And so on. So the Pronunciation session from page 17 - 42 is, in my opinion, a "headeach" part and ... useless.

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I am reviewing this book from the perspective of someone who used it for self-study rather than as part of a classroom course. I was very impressed with this book when I saw it in the bookstore, but after delving into it and buying the accompanying CDs, I found that I had made a mistake in choosing this book. While it may (or may not) be suitable for classroom use, I strongly advise against the use of this book for independent study for the following reasons: 1. The book is full of linguistic jargon which is unnecessarily complex and confusing. Terminology in plain English would have been quite sufficient and made the book much eaiser to understand and follow. It seems at times that Dr. Ngo is addressing his fellow Ph.D.s in linguistics rather than the interested student of Vietnamese, and the text borders on the pedantic at times.2. Entire chapters of the book are full of vocabulary and dialogues which are of no use to anyone but a college student, such as "In the Classroom" and "In the Dormitory." Topics the average person would need to talk about, such as shopping, eating out, and talking about the weather, are saved for the end of the book. 3. Vocabulary items are introduced in large quantities and often used only once or twice in the entire book, making it virtually impossible to retain them. A smaller amount of useful vocabulary, repeatedly reinforced, would have been much more effective. 4. The CDs which accompany the book (available for an additional $108) are, in my opinion, next to useless and could have been made drastically better with a minimum of effort and foresight. Two and a half of the 8 CDs are devoted entirely to sound practice, which is undoubtedly important in itself but certainly too much of a good thing in this case.Read more ›
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Ok, the book is outstanding. But it's not very useful without the CD's which are only available directly from the author for $137 in the US. The same CD's are available to any Harvard student enrolled in his class through the Media Production Center at Harvard for $35. That's right: $35. If Professor Ngo really wants his book more widely used then he needs to take a reality check on the current pricing policy.
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This text has the most complete overview of the Vietnamese language that I have found. You can use as little or as much of this information as you like. From a structural grammar point of view, the first few chapters on pronunciation are a scholarly work, and some parts are tedious. I recommend that you immerse yourself in it, but if that's not your cup of tea, then skip it.
Every text book must begin with a point of view. This book was written for students at Harvard. Another VN text I have uses the setting of business people, working for multinational corporations, visiting Hanoi. Imagining myself a college student again is a stretch, but not as big a stretch as imagining myself working for a multinational corporation with offices in Hanoi. I am a medical doctor with many Vietnamese patients. I have not been able to find a text tailored to my needs, and don't really think that I will.
This text teaches Northern Vietnamese. Even those from South Vietnam will tell you that "proper" Vietnamese is Northern Dialect. I think this view is as sad as it is common. But this is the framework we have. All VN language programs I have found begin by teaching Northern Dialect. Because Northern Vietnamese has more complex tone structure, it is probably more practical than learning Southern Dialect first.
Seek out and use other sources. Take about a year to do the three levels of Rosetta Stone and talk with their on line instructors. Read simple books for Vietnamese children. Get a dictionary. Visit a Vietnamese grocery store and pick up Vietnamese language magazines (reading the ads is really helpful!). Get books in translation of stuff that you know pretty well already; I got a copy of the Bible in Vietnamese. Learn songs in Vietnamese (karaoke helps).
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