Common ESL Mistakes made by Vietnamese Learners
Learning English as a second language presents all sorts of challenges but the most persistent tend to be overcoming the interference of the learner’s native language. The most persistent errors made by Vietnamese learners when learning English as a second language are in the following areas of English:
- linking verbs such as using ‘be’ before an adjective
- indefinite and definite articles
- complicated verb tenses
- subject pronouns and object pronouns
Common English Grammar Errors Vietnamese speakers experience when Learning English as a Second Language
How the structure of a sentence works in Vietnam is very different to that of English sentence structure. We examine the most common differences in sentence structure and how it affects Vietnamese speakers learning English grammar.
In Vietnamese, the equivalent of the English linking verb “be” is “là”, but “là” is not used when linking the subject with its predicative adjective in Vietnamese:
“Nó đói.” = He hungry “He is hungry.”
Vietnamese adjectives have their own “built-in” verbs, so Vietnamese ESL learners will assume this feature in English and omit the linking verb. For example: “The kitten black and white.” “ The family away on vacation.”
Vietnamese learners typically misuse articles such as a/an, the. These words have no equivalents in Vietnamese. Thus, learners frequently mix them up in sentences:
I wanted to be doctor/I wanted to be A doctor.
She was sent to
the bed early/She was sent to bed early.
We are hoping for
a good rains this month/We are hoping for good rains this month.
Vietnamese grammar expresses time by placing the appropriate particle in front of the main verb, such as “đã” (for past), “đang” (for present), and “sẽ” (for future):
“Hắn đã gặp một bạn cũ tuần rồi.” – [He past-marker meet one friend old week just past] – “He met an old friend last week.”
Vietnamese learners find tenses other than simple present, past and future very difficult to use properly. Tenses such as Past Perfect Continuous, Future Perfect, Future Continuous are sources of great confusion so instead of: “We will have been living in America for twenty years this January”, this is more typical from a Vietnamese learner: “We live in America for twenty years this January.”
Another example: “I wish you
can come to the movies with me”/“I wish you could come to the movies with me.”
Because of the complex verb tenses and moods in the English language, Vietnamese learners avoid using them.
Subject pronouns and object pronouns
Subordinate clauses, like main clauses, must have subjects and verbs in English grammar. The subordinate clause does not have a subject in Vietnamese.
“Cha tôi làm việc cho đến khi xỉu.” = [Father my past-marker do work until faint] = “My father worked until he fainted.”
A Vietnamese learner might understandably say this: “My father worked until fainted.”
In Vietnamese sentences, direct object pronouns are understood:
“Người đàn ông ấy vô lễ lắm nên không ai ưa.” = [Person man that impolite very so nobody likes] = “That man is very impolite, so nobody likes him.”
So, you may hear this from your Vietnamese student: “That man is very impolite, so nobody likes.”
In identifying the common errors and WHY they occur, learners from Vietnam know what aspects of sentence structure to pay attention to when learning English.