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what will practicing vietnamese for 530 hours get you?

5 minute read

tl;dr: enough knowledge to enjoy further study

All tracked time is active, 100% focused on the task at hand.

Passive listening time I estimate at 300 additional hours, mostly not focused on the content. During those hours I'm usually cooking, cleaning, or running with an episode of a show I've already watched playing in my headphones.

Starting from: English monolingual beta

Current strategy: Consume fiction

Long-term goal: D1 fluency and a paid original fiction publication in twenty years

Current level:

Rejected Strategies:

2018-2022: The Dabbling Era

I had no system of practice. I downloaded and opened apps once or twice. I ordered a (physical) deck of premade vocabulary cards for kids (lmao). I inflicted psychic pain upon Vietnamese people on Tandem with my mouth sounds. I tortured myself with Pimsleur and FSI tapes.

July 2022-March 2023: The Output Era

I stumbled upon FluentIn3Months which advises Speak From Day One^TM. I booked many tutor sessions and tried reading aloud according to pronunciation guides.

This was worse than useless. It took a while to break the dumb muscle memory I built doing these things. I was both unclear to native speakers and hurting my throat.

In total I'd have spent about 100 hours engaging with Vietnamese by this point.

March 2023-June 2023: Early Input Era

As of March 2023 I could understand basically nothing, and say nothing without thinking quite hard about it. I changed my approach to focus on input.

Targeting 2 hours per day, I

It was not optimal learning content. Content for beginners or even native-speaking children is sparse in vietnamese, and with my low level all of it felt equally impenetrable.

June 2023-Now: Fiction Input Era

Eventually, having acquired enough common words from dense native content, I became sensitive to difficulty differences. I noticed that some mangas for teenagers were actually readable, and that if I looped episodes of kid's shows ten times or so, I could reach ~40% comprehension.

After that, I focused all my attention on the easiest and most fun content, where I'd have massive context: long-running stories I'd consumed before, with both written and spoken forms.

And for listening only, during the lazy times:

And for the itchy times:

Every monday I speak with a tutor for 30m, just free talk. I have no other output practice but my output improves every week simply as a result of what I've consumed.

Time Breakdown

I use atracker on iOS since it's got a quick interface on the apple watch.

For the latter 430 hours I have tracking in four categories. Unfortunately I didn't track specific activities during the first 100.


I'm not yet fluent so I have no qualifications to give advice. My next journal update, which I'll write at 1000 hours, may contain different opinions.

That said, my views now are:

Best of luck to other Vietnamese learners, and see y'all again after 470 more hours!

Reddit discussion.

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