I’m a big fan of accents and I’m always more than slightly intrigued by how people can speak the same language in such different ways. It’s strange to me, a wonderful kind of strange. The truth is, however – I’ve never given much thought to the different accents of Vietnam. Not until a couple of months ago when, at the age of 23, I went to the orthodontist to get my retainers fixed (that’s a whole other embarrassing story we won’t talk about). Upon walking into the office, my conversation with the Vietnamese receptionist went like this:
Me: Huyen Ton Nu Ai Thu (fancy, right?)
Me: Huyen Ton Nu Ai Thu
Receptionist: *Contorts her face in a way that said “What the @#$* did you just say?”*
Me: (Deciding that maybe the middle name was too much) Thu Huyen
Receptionist: Say that again.
Random Stranger: No nói, Huyen Ton Nu Ai Thu.
Me: That’s what I said…
Radom Stranger: (In Vietnamese) She’s speaking with a Hue accent, no one understands her.
Me: Oh no you didn’t! (Was what I wanted to say…what I actually said was..) Thank you...
I have an accent?? This can’t be true! As much as I admire others with it, I wasn’t ready for that kind of responsibility. No one has ever said they couldn’t understand me before! Then it hit me – maybe it was because I only speak Vietnamese to my family and the only reason they understand me is because they have the same indistinguishable accent! Can anyone understand what we say??
Ok, maybe I’m being a little bit dramatic. The truth is: after being made aware by a complete stranger of how I speak, I got curious. Thank you World Wide Web for never leaving a question unanswered, especially you, Wikipedia – you beautiful, beautiful thing.
According to Wiki, there are three main accents in Vietnam: North, Central and South. The differences between the South and North range from: the pronunciation of the letter “d”, to the number of tones, to how to say words ending in “nh”. It’s said that people with Northern and Southern accents have no trouble understanding each other (unless the accent is really strong). But (!), everyone has a hard time understanding the Central accent.
I’m not a geography buff, but I believe that Hue is in Central Vietnam. That explains everything! As long as I’m not a lone bird in not being understood, I’m okay. There’s a whole region right there with me. If you can’t understand me, maybe you can day – I mean zay, or is it yay me the different ways of speaking.