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Q: How would an American become FLUENT in Vietnamese ( No Answer,   9 Comments )
Subject: How would an American become FLUENT in Vietnamese
Category: Arts and Entertainment > Celebrities
Asked by: probonopublico-ga
List Price: $5.00
Posted: 08 Oct 2006 23:35 PDT
Expires: 15 Oct 2006 23:36 PDT
Question ID: 771888
I know of a certain American gentleman (who must remain anonymous) who
speaks Vietnamese FLUENTLY!

The mind boggles!

I have spent a sleepless night struggling with this and my #1 Theory
is that he used to be a CIA man who infiltrated the VCs, way back in
the JFK era.

I'd love to ask him for the FULL STORY but I suspect that he may be
bound by the Hippocratic Oath or something.

There could be a blockbuster movie in this with all the top Hollywood
action heroes vying for the lead.

Sadly, Harrison Ford is much too young for the part ... But maybe Kirk Douglas?

My question is how can I get this man to TELL ALL.

A great answer will assuredly bring five twinklies and (subject to
screen test) a very good part in the movie.

My thanks in anticipation,

There is no answer at this time.

Subject: Re: How would an American become FLUENT in Vietnamese
From: easterangel-ga on 09 Oct 2006 00:19 PDT

In my basketball crazy country here in the Philippines, Filipinos with
American blood or Fil-Ams have invaded the country to play big money
pro hoops. Since they had American training and due to the colonial
mentality of some coaches they were easily taken here to play.

One American who had no single ounce of Filipino blood, a person by
the name of Alex Compton played here. Although he was actually born
here in the Philippines he grew up back in the states. So we can
surmise that any trace of the language was washed away from his
system. Now he speaks fluent Tagalog (our national language), and has
even been a TV celebrity doing interviews of common folks like
tricycle drivers in pure Tagalog! When he is made to do play-by-play
commentary of basketball games, he makes sure that he matches up well
with his Filipino panel partner and utters tagalog phrases during the

He was better than those Fil-Americans who professed to have lots of
Filipino blood in them but when interviewed on TV, barely utters a
Tagalog word.

What did he do? In his early days of course he hardly speak Tagalog of
course. But in one feature about him, the guy spent money and hired a
personal tutor! The tutor does nothing but teach him tagalog! After a
year or so the guy can now speak fluently and can discuss matters even
with the common man on the street!

I have also heard that he is a Chrisian and studied pastoral work so
it could also have contributed to his language training.
Subject: Re: How would an American become FLUENT in Vietnamese
From: answerfinder-ga on 09 Oct 2006 00:54 PDT

Back in the early 80s you may recall we had the first North Vietnamese
boat people arrive in the UK. Shortly after they arrived I was
involved in the first murder investigation involving that group. One
of our first problems was trying to find a reliable and competent
interpreter. We started with a former South Vietnamese army major
which didn?t go down to well with the North Vietnamese we were
investigating. We tried the BBC World Service and there was only one,
he was about 75 and a puff of wind could have blown him over. Not
suited for the work we needed to do. In desperation we turned to the
Americans. I visited one of their army bases in the UK and we borrowed
for a couple of days a guy who was able to understand Vietnamese but
couldn?t speak it that well. He had never been to Vietnam and had been
taught in the by the army in the US by Vietnamese who moved there
after the Vietnam War. This guy could never had infiltrated Vietnam.
He was black.

As a result of speaking to him I am sure that there must be several
fluent speakers out there, but how to get them to spill the beans is
an answer I cannot provide.

We eventually found a reliable interepreter from the South Vietnamese community.

Subject: Re: How would an American become FLUENT in Vietnamese
From: politicalguru-ga on 09 Oct 2006 01:07 PDT
Someone I dearly hold is fluent in Arabic without being an Arab. If he
hadn't looked so European, he could have been the perfect spy. And he
hasn't been or learnt the language in any intelligence or stupidness
service. He went to an intensive language school, and has lived for a
while among the Arabs.

I also know a woman, who is Turko-German, speaks German without a
shred of accent (despite the fact that her parents speak Turkish
between themselves), but also - because of some circumstances in her
childhood, speaks Russian and Czech without any accent. I've been told
by her mother, though, that her Turkish is not that good.

I have an Israeli friend, who came to Germany less than two years ago,
and speaks now German without a foreign accent. She makes grammar
mistakes, though, but give her a couple of years. I don't know if it
is connected, but she's a choir singer, and has a very good musical
Subject: Re: How would an American become FLUENT in Vietnamese
From: myoarin-ga on 09 Oct 2006 02:22 PDT
The pronunciation of some languages is more similar to a person's
mother tongue, making it easier for the person to learn to speak
without an accent.  Babies learn to reproduce the speach sounds they
hear - and to drop those that don't occur, as they grow older, not
even recognizing the fine destinctions.  This makes it more difficult
for adults to lose their foreign accent  - they just don't hear the
difference.  On the other hand, a young child's exposure to a language
 - may be the case for Alex Compton -  may keep alive the recognition
of the sounds and the ability to reproduce them.

However, I suspect that this question is based on a comment to one
that has since been deleted, probably before Probono got to see the
final comment:

"Honest people are just soooo gullible."

\**   ;-)
Subject: Re: How would an American become FLUENT in Vietnamese
From: probonopublico-ga on 09 Oct 2006 09:52 PDT
Phew ... Many thanks everyone!

It was great getting so many comments but, as always, the Mighty
Myoarin has again hit his toe nail on everybody's head.

"Honest people are just soooo gullible."

It just shows that you can't believe ANYTHING on the Infernalnet.

Answerfinder, please arrest that man .... 

If he really is a man ...

And whoever is fastest off the mark ...

Please post your comment as an answer.

Many thanks!

Subject: Re: How would an American become FLUENT in Vietnamese
From: secret901-ga on 09 Oct 2006 09:58 PDT
I heard that CNN's Anderson Cooper
( is a competent
Vietnamese speaker and Richard Armitage
( speaks "flawless"
Vietnamese but I've yet to hear them speak.  Often, foreigners
speaking Vietnamese have problems with tones, which sometimes result
in amusing results.  The most flawless non-native Vietnamese speaker
I've seen is a certain correspondent for Radio Free Asia.  She speaks
with a Hue accent, which requires only 4 tones as opposed to the 6
tones in other accents.  There's a certain singer who doesn't speak
Vietnamese at all but is an accomplished singer of Vietnamese music
(indistinguishable from a native speaker) (

Subject: Re: How would an American become FLUENT in Vietnamese
From: myoarin-ga on 09 Oct 2006 10:04 PDT
Sorry about that, Bryan.  I can't pronounce anything with my tongue in
cheek;  sounds like someone whose tongue has been cut off, which you
might think appropriate.

I am sure the prize will go to a worthy GAR.

Cheers and best regards, Myo
Subject: Re: How would an American become FLUENT in Vietnamese
From: hlpusr-ga on 10 Oct 2006 07:44 PDT
I also believe there is a lot of luck in the world. I am lucky, I was
born in England and I can speak English.

So were my sister and brothers. I think that maybe he was a Vietnam
person born in the wrong body and the wrong country. It is entirely
possible. At least tommy cooper thought so!

Subject: Re: How would an American become FLUENT in Vietnamese
From: frde-ga on 11 Oct 2006 03:14 PDT
People's language skills are often exagerated by other people.

However two things come to mind, he might have spent his early years
in Vietnam or was brought up by a Vietnamese maid.  Rather as some
British speak Malay, Urdu etc.

Another is that he might be that rare beast, a natural polyglot.
I have a theory that language learning abilities decline rapidly to
nearly zilch in ones mid teens - probabably a Darwinistic tribal

However I have run into (and heard about) a few people who simply pick
up languages. Actually I'm thinking of one guy I know who works in a
very modern building in London.

I'm not sure how much use he would have been to the CIA, possible
handy for liason, interrogation and evesdropping - but his appearance
would rather let him down.

Another possibility has just struck me, he might be of French origin.

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