Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Tiếng Việt Tuesday: ordering a banana coffee smoothie

We went to the Can Gio Mangrove reserve last weekend, where as soon as I got off the bus at Monkey Island, a monkey ripped my plastic bag out of my hand and ran off with it. The bag contained a water bottle, which fell out and got claimed by another monkey, and my Vietnamese phrasebook.

Photo credit: Rick Silva

Photo credit: Christine

The first monkey tore my phrasebook to shreds. So this week I went out and bought another phrasebook. A bigger one with more phrases and sentences in it. And I set about studying my new phrasebook, and studying and studying it, and watched some YouTube language lesson videos to help build up my vocabulary.

But I don't think I really retained any of it. Not yet. Language acquisition is a long, hard road.

So I decided to aim lower this morning. I went to Fun Fruit World, which makes excellent banana coffee smoothies. I often get one for breakfast. A banana coffee smoothie is the perfect food - all the nutrition of a banana, plus real Vietnamese coffee.

(If you don't like bananas or coffee, that doesn't make the banana coffee smoothie any less of a perfect food. It just means you are unfortunate enough to dislike the world's most perfect food, and I will pity you, but also be annoyed at you if you whine.)

There's a new guy who works at Fun Fruit World, who does not speak English. And even though I order the same thing every time I go there, he always struggles to figure out what I'm asking for. He has had plenty of time to just memorize the order of the white chick who keeps ordering in English every morning, but he has failed to do so. So my goal was to make it easy on him. By ordering in Tiếng Việt.

Coffee is Cà phê.
Banana is chuối.
Smoothie is sinh tố. 

I always have trouble remembering the pronunciation of "chuối." It's a lot like "joy" with a lift at the end like it's at the end of a question. "Joy?" But the emphasis is mostly on the u. And the ch sound is halfway between ch and j.

When I'm reading it, I can remember all that. But out on the street, I tend to mangle it and no one can understand me.

Oh, and the last phrase we need is the phrase that tells the server you are ordering something. In English, we say "I want..." or "I'd like..." But the Vietnamese come right out and say "Give me..."

Give me is cho tôi.

Cho tôi một ly sinh tố cà phê và chuối.

Google translate reminds me that "một ly" is the modifier for one smoothie. I forgot that part this morning. But I successfully ordered without it.

("và" just means "and.")

One thing I did to help me along, though... especially to remind me of the tough, tough pronunciation of chuối... I found the banana coffee smoothie listing in the menu. :)

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