Typing in Vietnamese on your computer

09.08.08 | admin | In Vietnamese

There are many ways to get Vietnamese letters into your text editor. If you just want to enter a few letters and don’t want to install anything then you can pull up Character Map which you will find in Windows under Accessories and then under System Tools. Unfortunately, the Vietnamese specific characters are not grouped together and so you may need to do some hunting around. This is much too tedious to do more than handful of words at a time.

If you plan to do a lot of typing in Vietnamese then you should install some software. Many people prefer UniKey while others prefer VPSKeys. If you want to use UniKey then you will have to get through the set up in Vietnamese which takes just a few clicks but the Down and Out Of Saigon blog shows you what to click with screenshots. VPSKeys is also entirely in Vietnamese.

On the other hand WinVNKey is in English. All three programs have the same basic functionality and you can install and run all three at the same time to see which one you like. They stay in the taskbar and you can easily enable and disable them from there.

The programs support input in the three main input types which are Telex, VIQR, and VNI. The Down and Out Of Saigon blog also has a nice quick overview comparing the three.

Desired letter TELEX VNI VIQR
â Type “aa” Type “a6″ Type “a^”
ă Type “aw” Type “a8″ Type “a(”
đ Type “dd” Type “d9″ Type “dd”
ê Type “ee” Type “e6″ Type “e^”
ô Type “oo” Type “o6″ Type “o^”
ơ Type “ow” Type “o7″ Type “o+”
ư Type “w” or “uw” Type “u7″ Type “u+”
Add a “dấu Sắc” Type a “s” Type “1″ Type single quote “‘”
Add a “dấu Huyền” Type a “f” Type “2″ Type reverse quote “`”
Add a “dấu Hỏi” Type a “r” Type “3″ Type “?”
Add a “dấu Ngã” Type a “x” Type “4″ Type tilde “~”
Add a “dấu Nặng” Type a “j” Type “5″ Type period “.”
Remove tone Type a “z” Type “0″ Type “0″
Hai Bà Trưng Type “Hai Baf Trwng” “Hai Ba1 Tru7ng” “Hai Ba` Tru+ng”
Tiếng Việt Type “Tieesng Vieejt” Type “Tie61ng Vie65t” Type “Tie^’ng Vie^.t”
ĐƯỜNG Type “DDWOWFNG” Type “D9U7O72NG” Type “DDU+O+`NG”

Often on the Internet you will see raw VIQR as this is what people have been using before the Internet and its somewhat more legible than the others. I think it’s the easiest to learn and most Vietnamese use it today. Unfortunately, it requires hitting the shift key a lot. If you want to convert text written in VIQR you can use the VietUni online script here. Copy and paste in the text you want to convert into Unicode and then select the first pulldown that says Unicode and select VIQR then click Đối sang. This site also functions as a text editor to convert from TELEX, VNI, and VIQR as you type but as for pasting in text from elsewhere I couldn’t figure out how to convert anything besides VIQR. (This online script, VietUni, is available on many other sites so if this site is down just do a search.)

In fact, you can use scripts like the above to do all your Vietnamese typing without having to install any software. Others include Vietjie and MViet.

For details on the VIQR standard look here.

Vietnam dong currency crisis?

07.03.08 | admin | In currency, Vietnamese

The Vietnamese dong has already devalued by around 10% this year but some analysts expected to drop even more. Morgan Stanley is warning of a Vietnamese currency crisis. Last week one US dollar could be exchanged for nearly 19,500 Vietnam dong on the black market at jewelry shops but it’s dropped to around 17,500 now. And many places that quote prices in dollars such as travel agencies want payment in dollars or into equivalent black market rate. And using a credit card doesn’t help because the Vietnamese businesses get paid by the credit card banks at the official exchange rate when the currency is converted so they want an even higher amount for credit card transactions.

The Vietnamese Central Bank doubled the trading band from 1% to 2% where banks are allowed to trade the dong. But the government made another move as well. They have banned currency trading in currencies other than the US dollar. Before you could convert dongs into other major currencies like the euro or the Japanese yen which were convertible again into dollars but no more.

With banks no longer selling dollars, real estate down, the stock market in Vietnam the worst performing in the world, and gold selling at a premium with imports of gold now being suspended into Vietnam, what’s an investor to do? If you’re going to hold on to your dong you might so put in the bank at nearly 20% annual interest rates.

Last time on Vietnamese dong devaluation

Vietnamese dong devalued to fight inflation

06.11.08 | admin | In Vietnamese

Here’s an update on the Vietnamese dong to US dollar exchange rate.

Vietnam effectively devalued its currency by almost 2% Tuesday to bring official exchange rates closer to black-market rates, which have fallen sharply as Vietnamese investors buy dollars to escape soaring inflation.

All this after Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung said that the government wasn’t going to devalue the currency.

In a statement on its Web site, the State Bank of Vietnam said it will set Wednesday’s official exchange rate at 16,461 dong per dollar, from 16,139 dong on Tuesday.
But black-market rates for dollars have been increasing, and one dollar now buys 18,000 dong to 18,500 dong — as much as 15% more than Tuesday’s official exchange rate.

The State Bank of Vietnam (SBV) said Tuesday it has raised the benchmark rate by 2 percent to 14 percent per year to battle the accelerating inflation, which reached 25.2 percent in May.

The central bank last month boosted the base rate from 8.75 percent to 12 percent.
That means that those of us in Vietnam who are getting paid in US dollars just saw a 2% raise. 2% here or there can happen all the time but maybe this will just be the first raise in a series of raises by the Vietnamese government to devalue the Vietnamese dong. There is still a long way to go before matching the black-market rates or the non-convertible offshore forwards. Goldman Sachs thinks that dong is overvalued. Meanwhile Vietnam’s benchmark stock index has been falling for 25 straight sessions making it the worst performing stock market in the world.

Differences in the difficulty and time required to learn different languages

The Foreign Service Institute of the Department (FSI) of State has compiled approximate learning expectations for a number of languages based on the length of time it takes to achieve Speaking 3: General Professional Proficiency in Speaking (S3) and Reading 3: General Professional Proficiency in Reading (R3). The list is limited to languages taught at the Foreign Service Institute.
It must be kept in mind that that students at FSI are almost 40 years old, are native speakers of English. and have a good aptitude for formal language study, plus knowledge of several other foreign languages. They study in small classes of no more than 6. Their schedule calls for 25 hours of class per week with 3-4 hours per day of directed self-study.

For native English speakers all foreign languages are not equally difficult to learn. The Foreign Service Institute (Foreign Language Institute) has broken down the 60 some foreign languages they teach into three categories of difficulty. The first category has the 10 foreign languages that are easiest to learn for native English speakers. These languages are the Germanic languages closely related to English and the Romance languages, which like French, share much vocabulary with English. Although German is a Germanic language it doesn’t fit into the first category. They rate it as requiring 30 weeks of study whereas the other category one languages require 24.

Although they are not taught here I would assume that the Frisian languages, being the most closely related to Old English, would be easiest to learn but I may be wrong. Frisian is spoken by a small number of people in the Netherlands and Germany but whereas modern English vocabulary has been greatly influenced by French, Frisian has been greatly influenced by Dutch.

The third group of languages, Category 3 are some of the most influential languages in the world today: Arabic, Cantonese, Mandarin, Japanese, and Korean. Out of this group Japanese is said to be slightly more difficult to learn and the rest of the languages in category 3.

The rest of the languages fall into category 2. It’s interesting to note that Indonesian, Malaysian, and Swahili fall between category 1 and category 2 meaning they are actually easier to learn than most languages. However, they are harder to learn than the languages most American high school students learn, namely French and Spanish. So when students complain about the difficulty of learning those languages they should realize that most other languages are much more difficult!

Category 2 languages, languages with significant linguistic and/or cultural differences from English are approximately twice as hard to learn, taking twice as long to learn as category 1 languages. Vietnamese is a category 2 language although it is harder to learn than regular category 2 languages.

Category 3 languages are languages which are exceptionally difficult for native English speakers and require twice as long to learn as category 2 languages and require one year of study in country.

Vietnam dong US dollar exchange rate future

06.05.08 | admin | In Vietnamese
The State Bank of Vietnam, the central bank, set the dong’s official exchange rate at 16,099 per dollar Tuesday, the lowest level since January 28.
In the offshore market, the non-convertible dong eased to VND22,150 – VND23,150 per dollar on one-year term, implying the currency will be worth 39.3 percent less in a year’s time.

Although this isn’t a post on learning the Vietnamese language it should be of interest to those foreigners in Saigon who are learning Vietnamese. Especially Americans. The Vietnam dong is one of the few currencies that has depreciated against the dollar. Right now Vietnam is experiencing a high inflation rate of around 25% and the government wants to keep exports to the US competitive by keeping the dong undervalued. But the official exchange rate is out of balance with the open market rate. In recent days a rate of 17,750 Vietnam dong to one US dollar have been seen on the black market. Yet if you go to the bank to exchange dollars for dongs you’d only get around one US dollar for every 16,100 dong.

Banks in Vietnam are allowed to trade the currency within a band of plus or minus 2% per day. But economists are forecasting that the Vietnam dong will continue to devalue against the dollar.

So what should people be holding, dollars or dongs? Right now if you have dongs you can open a savings account with an interest rate of up to 15% which is up from around 12% a few weeks ago after the government uncapped the rate banks are allowed to offer. But if you’re deposit is in dollars you will only get 6% which is unchanged from when interest rates were uncapped. So right now if you have $100 you will get 1,610,000 Vietnam dong and after one year in the bank you would have 1,851,500 dong. But if you instead put the $100 in the bank after one year you would have $106 which could be worth between 2,347,900 and 2,453,900. But that’s only if the government allows the dong to be devalued that much, nearly 40% in a year. But if the government only allows a change of 2 to 3% then it’s much better to have your money in Vietnam dong in a savings account earning 15%.

Vietnamese alphabet pronunciation, spelling words out loud

06.03.08 | admin | In orthography, Vietnamese, French

Knowing the Vietnamese alphabet isn’t just for fun. There will be times when you will be trying to communicate with somebody and have to spell out a word or have them spell it out for you without writing it down. Luckily, learning the Vietnamese alphabet isn’t difficult if you already know the English alphabet and especially easy if you know the French alphabet.

The Vietnamese alphabet is based on the French alphabet. According to Omniglot:

“During the 17th century, Roman Catholic missionaries introduced a Latin-based orthography for Vietnamese, Quốc Ngữ (national language),which has been used ever since. Until the early 20th century, Quốc Ngữ was used in parallel with Chữ-nôm. Today only Quốc Ngữ is used.”


As you can see a lot of it makes sense and corresponds with the French alphabet and its pronunciation but there are a few letters to be careful of. First, there are the three variations of the letter a: a, ă, â pronounced like ah, ah! (rising tone), u! (rising tone ớ). Secondly, there are two i’s, i “i ngắn” (short) and y “i dài” (long), also “i-cờ-rét” based on French “i grec”. Thirdly, the Vietnamese pronunciation of the letter h is neither English nor quite French. They pronounce it “hát” so the Vietnamese spelling of ch will sound like “say hat”. One last thing to be careful of in both of the Vietnamese and French alphabet’s are the letters g and j which in English are pronounced like “jee” and “jay” but are the opposite in Vietnamese and French. However, note that in the southern Vietnamese dialect they start with a y sound instead of the z sound. This also holds for the letters d and v which are both pronounced y in the South.


05.07.08 | admin | In Creole, French, English

“Tufala i stap yet long Betlehem, nao i kam kasem stret taem blong Meri i bonem pikinini. Nao hem i bonem fasbon pikinin blong hem we hem i boe. Hem i kavremapgud long kaliko, nao i putum hem i slip long wan bokis we oltaim ol man oli stap putum gras long hem, blong ol anamol oli kakae. Tufala i mekem olsem, from we long hotel, i no gat ples blong tufala i stap.”

Is it Old English? A lost Germanic language closely related to English perhaps?  No, of course it’s Bislama, an urban English Creole based on a pidgin.  It’s spoken on the tiny archipelago of Vanuatu by 6200 native speakers (national motto “Long God yumi stanap”, “In God we stand) but many more in that region as a lingua franca. Vanuatu is also well known for being a tax haven and some filesharing companies are incorporated there, again because of favorable laws.

According to Wikipedia: More than 95% of Bislama words are of English origin; the remainder combines a few dozen words from French, as well as some vocabulary inherited from various languages of Vanuatu, essentially limited to flora and fauna terminology. While the influence of these vernacular languages is low on the vocabulary side, it is very high in the morphosyntax. Essentially speaking, Bislama can be described as a language with an English vocabulary and an Austronesian  grammar.

Motorbikes in Saigon

05.07.08 | admin | In video, Vietnamese, French

A video made by some French guys about motorbikes in Saigon. All traffic signals are just for show including red lights. The horn is often used to warn people ahead that you are coming up quickly. Traffic is always crazy due to the sheer number of people on motorbikes. Very few are in cars because it’s so impractical. Not only are automobiles very expensive to Vietnamese people, even without the almost 100% import tax, there’s no place to park them! And of course the best is when it rains. And as it is now the rainy season in Saigon it rains almost everyday yet people still have to go about their daily lives. What this means is millions of motorbikes and millions of raincoats. The rain jackets are worn not only over the driver but also the front of the motor bike and any passengers. And since the raincoat would cover the headlight of the bike they now have raincoats with translucent windows for the headlight to shine through.

Russell Peters on language

04.20.08 | admin | In Cantonese, video, Mandarin, Vietnamese, Chinese

How about some light humor this weekend for those studying foreign languages. Russel Peters is an Indian Canadian comedian from Toronto who often jokes about other ethnicities. In this act Russell peters talks about Vietnamese speaking English, funny Vietnamese restaurant names, and the name of Vietnam’s national currency, the dong.

Russell Peters talking about Chinese names and starting to talk about the Chinese and Indian language, both of which do not exist.

Russell Peters continues talking about the difference between Mandarin and Cantonese. Cantonese is the more fun sounding language spoken in Hong Kong and Mandarin is a serious language spoken in Beijing through clenched teeth.

Visa exemption for overseas Vietnamese: new English-language website

04.13.08 | admin | In Vietnamese

I said before how it’s useful to learn a foreign language by reading material in your mother tongue and the foreign language at the same time. It helps if the subject matter is interesting. I just learned that the Vietnamese government’s visa extension website for overseas Vietnamese (Viet Kieu) has finally been translated into English. In overseas Vietnamese visa exemption allows, for example, children of former Vietnamese nationals to visit Vietnam without a visa, own a house, and have some other rights that regular Vietnamese have.

More than 3.2 million Vietnamese are currently living and working in some 100 countries and territories in the world.
Hiện nay có hơn 3,2 triệu người Việt Nam đang sinh sống và làm ăn ở trên 100 nước và vùng lãnh thổ trên thế giới.
Wherever they are and irrespective of generations, young or old, male or female, political views, religions, ethnicity, and stories of the past, Vietnamese expatriates always turn to their country of origin.
Ở bất cứ nơi đâu, không phân biệt thế hệ già trẻ, gái trai, không phân biệt tôn giáo, dân tộc, và quá khứ trước đây, tuyệt đại đa số người Việt Nam định cư ở nước ngoài đều hướng về đất nước, hướng về cội nguồn, có tình cảm gắn bó với gia đình, quê hương, xứ sở.
No matter where, all the sons and daughters of the Vietnamese nation long to be back to their motherland and reunite with family, friends to engulf themselves in and share all the successes of the country’s cause of “Doi Moi” (reform and renovation).
Dù ở đâu, những người con của dân tộc Việt Nam đều mong muốn được về thăm Tổ quốc, sống lại những kỷ niệm xưa, đoàn tụ với gia đình, bạn bè, được hòa mình và chia sẻ với đồng bào trong nước những thành quả trong công cuộc đổi mới của đất nước.
In seeing the Vietnamese community abroad as an inseparable section of the Vietnamese nation, Resolution 36-NQ/TW of the CPV Politburo on overseas Vietnamese affairs made it clear that it would be necessary “to create the favourable conditions for overseas Vietnamese to come back, visit their homeland and relatives and worship their ancestors”.
Trên tinh thần coi cộng đồng người Việt Nam ở nước ngoài là một bộ phận không thể tách rời của dân tộc Việt Nam, Nghị quyết 36-NQ/TW của Bộ Chính trị, Đảng Cộng sản Việt Nam về công tác đối với người Việt Nam ở nước ngoài đã nêu rõ “tạo điều kiện thuận lợi để người Việt Nam ở nước ngoài về thăm quê hương, thân nhân, thờ cúng tổ tiên”.
In carrying out the said resolution and the announcement of President Nguyen Minh Triet at the meeting with overseas Vietnamese during his official visit to the United States of America, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dzung signed on 17/08/2007 Decision No. 135/2007/QĐ-TTg announcing the Regulations on Visa Exemption for Vietnamese people residing abroad.
Thực hiện chủ trương trên và thông báo của Chủ tịch nước Nguyễn Minh Triết tại cuộc gặp với bà con Việt Kiều nhân chuyến thăm chính thức Hoa Kỳ, ngày 17/08/2007 Thủ tướng Chính phủ Nguyễn Tấn Dũng đã ký Quyết định số 135/2007/QĐ-TTg ban hành Quy chế về miễn thị thực cho người Việt Nam định cư ở nước ngoài.
To help all Vietnamese residing abroad understand more clearly the above policy and decision and to facilitate our compatriots’ application of visa exemption certificate, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has launched the link to give instruction on regulations and procedures, thus assisting them in getting the certificate of visa exemption.
Để tạo điều kiện cho những người Việt Nam đang định cư ở nước ngoài hiểu rõ hơn về Chủ trương và Quyết định trên cũng như tạo điều kiện thuận lợi để đồng bào ta được cấp Giấy miễn thị thực, Bộ Ngoại giao đã xây dựng trang Web theo địa chỉ: nhằm hướng dẫn các quy định về thủ tục, hồ sơ cấp Giấy miễn thị thực.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs welcomes all feedbacks and comments from compatriots in regard to the site’s look and content. All feedbacks and comments could be sent to this Ministry via the following address: [email protected]
Bộ Ngoại giao mong muốn nhận được nhiều ý kiến, nhận xét của bà con đối với hình thức và nội dung của trang web. Mọi ý kiến, nhận xét xin gửi về Bộ Ngoại giao theo địa chỉ email: [email protected]

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