Hanoi - Post Report Question and Answers

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

Not necessary, but it helps. Language classes are available, if desired. - Aug 2021

Not much - taxi Vietnamese will help with getting around town, as will pleasantries, counting, etc. There are plenty of courses if so desired. - Dec 2019

I was surprised how little I needed Vietnamese. You can get by with little Vietnamese in the city. I recommend you learn some key phrases e.g., numbers and directions. Google translate helps when in the markets and charades, too. - Jul 2019

Some is necessary. You can pick up what you need rather quickly, e.g, numbers, directions, etc. I get by on very little. Depending on where you frequent, many Vietnamese will speak English. But I have found that if they don’t, in my experience there is no effort made to try to understand you or work with you. They won’t talk with their hands, or draw pictures, or use Google Translate. They just wave you away and ignore you. This is when hired household help comes in handy. It’s nice to have someone take care of some things I can’t. The embassy offers language courses for family members. There are also some classes available in the community, although I can’t comment on price. - Apr 2018

Younger Hanoians often understand basic English. Nicer restaurants and most places in the touristy area also can converse in English. Having at least basic Vietnamese (particularly food, money, number, and taxi/directions-related vocabulary) will help a ton, however. The embassy's post language program is excellent and affordable, and puts on language-learning outings for the whole family as well. - Dec 2017

You actually do need a fair amount of Vietnamese. You will most likely take taxis everywhere, and they don't speak English, nor do the local shop keepers. - May 2016

Every little bit helps. There is a big push here to increase English ability, but your average person on the street (shopkeepers, taxi drivers, etc) won't have any. At minimum, it's good to know directions, numbers, your address, and a few greetings and pleasantries. - Aug 2015

If you want the bare minimum, you should learn a few pleasantries and directions. You also need to be able to pronounce your own address with the correct tones (not too hard to get that one down if you focus). To blow away counterparts and do business will take a lot of work or marriage to a local (and oftentimes both). - Mar 2015

You can get by without the local language. If you stray far from the tourist trail, it's going to be difficult. - Aug 2014

A few words of Vietnamese will take you a long way to shop and go around. It will surely enhance your relations with the people you’ll meet. - Dec 2011

Any would be helpful. I get by with enough Vietnamese to direct a taxi driver. - Aug 2011

The quality of life will be limited if you don't know any basic Vietnamese. Most people do not speak Engligh, even in the city. - May 2010

It really helps to learn Vietnamese. Not many locals speak English. But this is a very difficult language, so you have to be somewhat committed. - Dec 2009

It is becoming less important to know Vietnamese. It's a romanized alphabet, you can make do with a few phrases. Having the language is always a plus. - Feb 2009

Get as much Vietnamese language as you can get. You can function in Vietnam without the language but you will be severly handicapped. Business contacts, landlords, workers, employees, electricians, plumbers, cable guys, internet repair technicians, taxi drivers, bill collectors, and other individuals upon which you will rely on a daily basis only speak Vietnamese. You will eventually need a maid, driver, or staff who can be available to translate for you in order to get routine tasks done. We took only three months of Vietnamese which covered only th basics (learning the basic sounds and tones takes a month) and it was not enough to be able onvey simple ideas other than directions to taxi drivers. - Sep 2008

None, unless you want to travel extensively out in the country. - May 2008

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