Hungarian is part of the Finno-Ugaritic group, along with Romany and Finnish, are among the most difficult languages to learn. People learning Finnish can literally go mad and even a lot of Finns would rather speak English.

I decided on Sept. 3 2008 that I was leaving the USA. That was the day of Sarah Palin’s acceptance speech; I decided that if such a stupid and vile woman could be accepted for a position that put her so close to the nuclear launch codes then my country was beyond recovery. I had long ago decided to retire here but I intended to leave about now, in 2019 when I turned 65 instead I left on 11/15/2010 at age 56. Events since have removed any doubt I was right.

Shortly after the appalling speech I began to study Vietnamese. I enrolled in weekly classes studying with a man from Hanoi. I moved to the Mekong Delta where a different “dialect” is spoken; the two are dialects to the Vietnamese because it’s a tonal language and a difference in the tones is more fundamental than anything in western languages. To me they are just differences in pronunciation and I can switch between the two easily. And I’m no linguistic genius.

First of all, you do not use Google Translate in Vietnamese for anything but short phrases. It cannot distinguish first and second person in a language without pronouns.

To my astonishment, I found that I was one of a very small percentage of foreigners who made any effort to learn the local language. I met people who had lived here 25 years who could not read or speak a single word They had all kinds of excuses.

Vietnamese is a tonal language and there is an attitude among westerners that tonal languages are insurmountably difficult. My answer is that every language has at least one obstacle. Once past the tones, which are more difficult than Cantonese, the grammar is as simple as easy as could be and the language is perfectly phonetic.

I have lived in Vietnam for nine years; I am still far from fluent but that’s my fault. I speak more than enough to be understood and get around comfortably. The Vietnamese are completely unaccustomed to foreigners speaking their language.

Sorry, but I can’t imagine living in a country and not speak the language.

American Software Developer living in Vietnam. Classical musician (guitar, woodwinds), weightlifter, multilingual, misanthrope • XY

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