How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Language is a real paradox in Vietnam. Inside the city, local people seem reluctant to interact in Vietnamese. It’s quite easy to live your life in the city without a word of Vietnamese. And it’s actually hard not to use English. But when you go out of the city, outside the tourism bubble, you find that many people over the age of 20 do not speak any English. English is very common and popular among students, so most young people have at least serviceable English. Vietnamese is (in)famous for being hard. Many people come to Vietnam with the goal of learning Vietnamese, and give up. There are classes available, but quality varies greatly. It’s discouraging, but nonetheless, I took private language classes for the entire two years I was in country, and my language improved. Making friends with Vietnamese people helps a lot. One of my coworkers attends a local church that has services in Vietnamese, and she has great colloquial language skills. - Jul 2019


Numbers for bargaining really help - some transaction Vietnamese is good to have. The rest certainly isn't necessary. - Mar 2016


You can survive just fine without the language --- as many expats here do. However, you will run into occasional moments where knowing at least some of the language would be extremely beneficial. Learning how to give directions when taking a taxi will really come in handy. - Aug 2015


Not much. We speak it rarely although it is helpful to know some. - May 2014


Not much. They don't really like to hear your version of Vietnamese. - Jul 2011


If you have a home help, that is huge, she can do all the shopping. I speak 3 other languages, Thai, Italian and French, I could not learn Vietnamese to save myself, a very frustrating time we had trying to learn this without formal language training. It really helps a lot to speak the language but the Hanoi speakers refuse to understand the Ho chi minh accent and vice versa. - Sep 2010


The more you know, the lower the prices in the markets will be. But you can survive with very little, as locals do not expect foreigners to know any Vietnamese at all. - Nov 2009


None, really; however, if you can learn just a little bit of Vietnamese a whole new world will open up to you. - Dec 2008


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