You’ll mostly be able to get by with gestures, pointing to menus and signs and smiling (a lot!) but a few native words here and there go a long way.
You’re not expected to be conversational, but it most certainly helps to know the very basics. Hello and thank you go a long way. Always smile, and always know how to say hello and thank you, yes and no, numbers (at least the number of people in your group, so you can order two of something) and your basic foods. You’ll mostly be able to get by with gestures, pointing to menus and signs and smiling, plus most people in the service industry speak English.
However, I love playing with new languages, so I tend to dig in a little more than what’s expected. I find you make more friends that way. You experience more smiles. You get that extra chili sauce or those special extras because you know what to ask for. Most importantly, have fun with it!
I use DuoLingo to study German (that, and being completely submerged in Neukölln a few months per year) I like DuoLingo’s repetitive style and the “tree” display of progress. It’s a fun, gamified way to learn the basics. According to DuoLingo, I’m Level 15 and 36% fluent in German. I would love to get to this level in Vietnamese.
This one is flashcard-based, which, being a visual learner, I found extremely helpful, especially given the funky little accents and characters which can change the word entirely. According to my Memrise profile, I’ve learned 347 Vietnamese words. I did spend a few hours a day obsessively studying for about a month but was completely lost when it came to tones. Conversationally, I’m able to order food, count, say hello and goodbye.
But sometimes, that’s all ya need to get by.
Learning the Thai Alphabet
Being a graphic designer, I love icons. Love ’em. Before our first trip to Thailand, I challenged myself to learn the Thai alphabet. I found a fantastically hilarious Rapid Thai Alphabet series on youtube and… mission accomplished.
Learn the top 13 Thai letters in only ten minutes.
Daisey is a UX designer for Art+Logic by day, soul/funk singer by night, full of love and always smiling.