Lana Learn instructors at Unit 871 in Hanoi discuss the common language interferences and their solutions among Vietnamese English learners.
The Linking Verb
“La” is the Vietnamese equivalent of the English linking verb “be.” In Vietnamese, however, “Ia” is rarely used to connect a subject to its predicative adjective, so Vietnamese language learners have trouble doing this in English.
The be verb is used in a completely different manner in Vietnamese. English language learners tend to forget the conjugation of the verb be and use one form too often at the expense of the other forms. For this interference, it is helpful to ask the students to identify the subject of the sentence. Then, you can ask them which form of the be verb they should use based on the subject. If students have difficulty remembering which form to use, you can show them a paradigm chart and point out the subject-verb agreements.
As a teacher, it is important to demonstrate a good model when speaking and writing. To reinforce this, assign a speaking task, and instruct the other students to point out the subject and form of the verb be.
Use of Articles
Vietnamese English learners are aware that English speakers use definite (the) and indefinite (a, an) articles. This lack of understanding which article to use leads to the creation of sentences without articles at all.
A good way to help students is to ask them questions that lead to self-correction. Some examples are:
Is the identity of this noun known or unknown?
Is the noun countable or uncountable?
Is the noun singular or plural?
Does the noun start with a consonant or a vowel?
Most of the time, the students will recognize their errors and then self-correct. It is important to be patient with the students and not expect them to remedy this overnight.
Vietnamese English learners have trouble conjugating English verbs because of the mismatch of English and Vietnamese verb tense systems. There are 12 verb tenses in the English language, yet Vietnamese only has four: past simple, present simple, present continuous, and future simple.
With Vietnamese learners, it is very important to stress that verbs in English give a lot more information than verbs in Vietnamese. They tell of an action as well as when it happened.
Giving students plenty of examples will help to remedy their verb confusion. Using visual aids, such as pictures and timelines, will also help them to see how verb tenses can change the meaning of a sentence. Many students learn better when they are interested in the lesson content, so incorporate games, videos, and interactive activities in your grammar lessons.
Subject and object pronouns
Subordinate clauses in complex English sentences must have subjects and verbs. However, in similar circumstances, the Vietnamese subordinate clause typically does not call for a subject.
The system of using personal pronouns is very complex in Vietnamese. It would be very helpful for the teacher to take some time to understand the pronoun structure. Drawing a paradigm makes it easier for the students to see the grammar structure. Then, they can recreate the sentence structure. They should have a clearer understanding as to who/whom the subject/object pronouns that are being addressed. When doing a paradigm presentation, it is very important to focus on the parts of speech of each word as well as their function.
Closing consonant sounds
The Vietnamese language has few, if any at all, words with final t, s, or v sounds. Because of this, their ‘mouth-motor’ movements have not been developed to produce these final sounds.
In terms of closing consonant sounds, I generally initially teach intonation patterns. A lot of Vietnamese sentences and words end with an inhale. This causes the student to invariably raise their tone and the cost of the ending sound. Teaching stress patterns forces the learner to exhale hence allowing them to access that final sound without the pressure of intonating up. As in English, we generally intonate downward unless the focus is on a particular emphasis.
It is important for the teacher to realize the physical challenge of this. When modeling, indicate the stress patterns and encourage the students to overemphasis the final consonant sounds in practice. Naturally, they would not need to speak in this manner in a natural environment, however, the teacher wants to anchor these habits in speaking drills.