I have a Saigonese accent ? Cool !

You know those moments of realisation where something cultural dawns on you and suddenly it’s really funny ?

I am familiar with the difference between accents from north and south Vietnam (not capitalised because they are not separate countries anymore), but I was sort of puzzled why I said “vang” (wine) with a “v” sound but my fiance said it with a “y” sound. I said it to my friend as “yang” and he goes “you mean vang ?” and I said “YES ! But my fiance says yang not vang. Why ?”

He laughed and said “Because you have a Saigon accent. She is from the lower Mekong. She has a different accent. Maybe more Chinese style. She says ‘y’ sounds when you say ‘v’ sounds because you have learnt Tieng Viet in Saigon whereas she learnt it somewhere else”.

That special moment when you realise you don’t just speak Vietnamese… you speak it with a specific, regional accent that’s different to your fiance’s accent even though she only grew up about 500km away. THAT’S really cool when you reach that moment and go “Really ? I have a Saigon accent ? OMG that’s so cool !”

Do you know why this matters so much to me ? I don’t have an Australian accent. I do, but it’s mixed up enough that most Australians when they meet me, and even as far back as high school say “Are you from America ? I can’t quite pick your accent”. I get a bit insulted. I may not have lived my whole life in Australia, but NO I’M NOT FROM AMERICA… I just grew up in the Asia-Pacific for most of my life so I didn’t really pick up as much of an Australian accent as my friends and family back home did and a lot of what I learned was from TV so I gained a really odd accent. It actually gives me a very unique and more understandable accent than either an American or an Australian or a Brit.

But sometimes it makes me feel sad that people can’t even work out where I’m from because my accent is so mixed up. So having a certain accent when I speak Vietnamese really is quite a big deal for me. Vietnam is not a big country, but the differences in regional dialect are huge and to have someone point out to me that I have learnt Vietnamese with a specific accent is actually really, really flattering to me.

Maybe when I speak English, noone can really tell where I’m from. But if they listen closely when I speak Vietnamese, people can tell what part of Vietnam I’m from by the way I say certain words. That’s cool. I like that. I’m proud of that.

Sài Gòn Đẹp Lắm !

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