It’s the first thing that my parents told me when they learned that I was moving to Vietnam.
While searching online for language resources, I discovered Learn Vietnamese With Annie. With more than 12,000 YouTube followers and nearly 1.3 million lifetime video views, I was surprised that the company had such a large online presence for such a niche topic. Best of all, the company develops all of its video, podcast, and written material in-house.
Anh, otherwise known as Annie, has been building her business since 2012 after graduating with a Master’s degree in linguistics. As you’ll see in the interview, Annie is bold about her career and sharing her passion for the Vietnamese language.
Sit back and let’s dig deeper into the language and the interesting bits that Annie has to share in her career as a Vietnamese language teacher online and offline.
How did you get the idea to start Learn Vietnamese With Annie?
I was beginning to get a bit bored during my linguistics masters program. One afternoon I went online and I began to search on YouTube for Vietnamese language videos. That’s how it started.
I realized that there weren’t many resources available to learn Vietnamese. The best one that I could find was a Vietnamese-American uploading a few short videos on YouTube. I thought to myself: I can do that too.
I wanted to cover everything from the Vietnamese alphabet, phrases, and writing based on what I learned from my studies.
My first and still most popular video covers common Vietnamese idioms and slang.
What are your biggest “learning hacks”?
Foreigners that relocate to Ho Chi Minh City for work need to learn Vietnamese with a Southern accent. The Northern and Central accents aren’t as common in Ho Chi Minh City and could actually slow down your learning curve since you are less likely to use it with locals. Before I started, there were no resources that taught Vietnamese with this accent. I decided to focus on this need.
Creating my own content also helped to increase engagement with my students. All the materials I use are developed in-house. Students become more comfortable learning in and outside of the classroom if the materials have uniformity and are developed with a consistent voice by the same person or team.
What are the most interesting words in Vietnamese that you think all people learning the language should know?
In my very first YouTube video, I go over five of the most common Vietnamese slang and idioms. My favorite is Troi oi. You can say it in every situation. Happy, angry, surprised. It’s easy to learn, impress people, and imitate.
Another term unique to Vietnamese is the decision to call someone ‘anh’ or ‘em’
For those of you that aren’t familiar, using anh (big brother) or chi (big sister) to address someone implies that you are younger. If you use em (little brother or sister) to address someone, you are implying that you are older than them.
Everyone makes mistakes. Sometimes I have to ask for their age to know how to actually address them. After using one pronoun, it’s awkward to change to a different one. It’s easy to know how the other person thinks if they don’t know your age.
One of my Vietnamese-American friends from Kansas was addressed as ‘con’ (child) by his parents. Growing up in Kansas, there were no other native Vietnamese speakers that ever addressed him as em or anh. On his first visit to Vietnam he called everyone ‘con’ because he’s never been addressed in any other way. Needless to say, he learned the hard way.
Who do you enjoy working with more: overseas Vietnamese or foreigners?
When I first started, most of my students were Americans. No Vietnamese-Americans.
Overseas Vietnamese are motivated by family and their roots. One student of mine from Canada wanted to learn Vietnamese to speak with her grandmother. Her story was touching, I enjoyed working with her because of her genuine motivation.
I’ve also enjoyed working with foreigners. I’ve been lucky enough to teach students from Australia to France to Taiwan. It’s been a culturally enriching experience.
Do you see a lot of interest in learning Vietnamese from any specific countries?
In my classes, I’m starting to see a shift. There are more Asian students that want to learn Vietnamese.
I’ve been enrolling Japanese, Malaysian, Thai, and most recently Chinese and Taiwanese. Koreans too. From Europe, I have a lot of French students. Overseas Vietnamese are mostly coming from America.
Where do you see your business going in the future? Is most of your growth online or offline?
I would say my business is 50/50 online and offline.
A lot of my online students live abroad and want to learn from distance. I started teaching via Skype before opening my classroom.
I’ve developed more online resources like podcasts, videos, and ebooks. I’m interested in doing more online teaching and material development.
I’d like to build a stronger team. I’m the most experienced at the moment. But I want to help other teachers become more skillful and passionate about teaching the Vietnamese language.
What are some tips on how to learn Vietnamese faster?
The number one advice I can give is to focus on the tones and vowels. If you know how to recognize and pronounce the tones and towels, you can learn quickly and the right way.
I would also recommend making meaningful time to learn the language. I’ve rejected students before who show up to class without having done any homework and think that’s enough.
A lot of my students also want to focus on just speaking. You need to have a baseline of knowledge in speaking, writing, and reading to be a proficient Vietnamese speaker. If you want to focus on speaking, then make sure to tell your teacher. At our studio, we can curate learning to help focus on one over the other. But it’s necessary to have a basic baseline knowledge of all three, before focusing on just one.
I also recommend making friends with Vietnamese locals or actively using it with your coworkers or significant other (if they are Vietnamese). If you surround yourself with foreigners, there’s no way you’ll understand or use the local slang or idioms that help to grow your confidence with using Vietnamese outside of the classroom.
What are 5 things people don’t know, but should know, about Learn Vietnamese with Annie?
1) When I was thinking of a name for YouTube channel, I didn’t like the name Annie at first, but it’s easy to remember. Friends called me Annie instead of Anh when I spent some time in America.
2) So many people think I’m a foreigner. People send me compliments about my Vietnamese. Probably because my name is Annie. My Vietnamese name is Anh.
3) We’re teachers, not translators. I strongly believe students need more exposure to the language, they should cut out foreign language usage if possible during class.
4) I’m tough on my students, otherwise they won’t learn.
5) I’ll sometimes refuse students if they aren’t serious about learning. They can’t just show up to class. They need to do the homework and learn. Anything less won’t take them anywhere. If they are too busy, then they should quit or find the time to learn.