Southern vs. Northern accents
I've been using Duolingo for a few days and listening to a Northern accent is quite different from the typical Southern accent I hear at home and from other Vietnamese people I've met. I rarely meet anyone with a Northern accent, but the small differences in pronunciation catch me off guard (ex: "d" is pronounced with a "z" sound in the North, while it's pronounced with a "y" in the South). I've also noticed that there's some words that differ by region (ex: the word for mother in the South is "má" where it's "mẹ" in the North).
I guess this helps cover all the bases for the two primary accents in Vietnamese, yet a little awkward to transition. Anyone else notice this or feel like this?
Of course a northerner thinks that northern Vietnamese is the best and easiest and everyone should learn northern Vietnamese. I'm a foreigner living in the south and I use only the southern accent (since that's what everyone here uses). I never hear the northern accent except on the radio or tv.
Though I actually like learning the northern accent since it's the accent I find the hardest to understand (since I've heard it the least. I worked in Huế a year and a half so I'm more familiar with central than northern), so this helps my weakest part.
Everyone saying which accent is the "easiest" and the "hardest" is silly. The accent you've heard the most is the easiest (your accent) and the accent you've hard the least is the hardest. Northerners find northern accent the easiest and all the other accents difficult. Southerners find the northern accent still ok if they live in Vietnam because it's what they hear on the radio and tv. No one hears central except people in the center so everyone finds that one the hardest (except for people from central Vietnam).
The accent that you should use is ultimately the accent that everyone around you uses. There is no correct accent. Yes, I realize the government of every country says that the accent spoken by the group in charge is correct. So in Vietnam officially the Vietnamese spoken in Hà Nội is correct because the government is in Hà Nội, but really every accent is the correct way of speaking in that area.
I am from Hà Nội, and no, the Vietnamese spoken in Hà Nội is not correct ^^. We do not say 'x', 's' or 'ch', 'tr' differently like they should be. Like many other languages we have something call standard Vietnamese which we was taught in elementary school and the Duolingo's material is quite similar to it.
Have fun learning Vietnamese! ^^
Ok there are a few differences but does standard Vietnamese use the northern pronunciation for 'r', 'd', and 'gi'? How about the tones: à, á, ạ, ã, and ả? I'm hardly an expert but from what I can tell standard Vietnamese sounds much more like northern Vietnamese than it does the Vietnamese in any other part of the country.
My point is simply that 'standard Vietnamese' like most 'standard' accents is usually very similar to the accent of whichever group is in control of the country (usually the majority, but sometimes where the capital is based), however that doesn't make all of the other accents wrong or harder to learn.
It's like all of the different accents of Spanish or English, the only difference is that most Vietnamese speakers live in a single country, so there is only one 'official' pronunciation. If there were multiple countries that spoke Vietnamese (like there are in many languages) then each country would make their own accent the 'official pronunciation' for that country.
Also be aware that for many Vietnamese in the US, the southern Vietnamese accent was 'standard Vietnamese' for the country they left, since when they were growing up and in school there were two Việt Nams. Now there is only one Việt Nam and one 'standard Vietnamese' but it's a very different accent than the one commonly used in southern Việt Nam now and by most Vietnamese in the US. So that is why there are some 2nd generation Vietnamese-Americans trying to learn the southern accent spoken by their parents and most other Vietnamese in their area rather than the current 'standard Vietnamese' taught in Việt Nam which seems much more similar to the northern accent.
As I said before I'm happy to learn the 'standard' accent since I live in southern Việt Nam and am used to hearing southern Vietnamese and I worked in Huế before, so listening to 'standard Vietnamese' using most of the northern pronunciation is a very different experience. So I'm happy, even if every time I hear a 'd', 'r', or 'gi' it sometimes takes me a while to figure out what they're saying.
I also have trouble with the last rising tone in the 'standard accent', like in con đom đóm. Instead of rising like it does where I am, it ends up sounding like đỏm. But this is good. It means when I talk to someone from the north I won't end up having to ask everyone to repeat themselves three times like I normally do.
I totally agree with you about the part that's you should learn the accent which you will hear and use the most. You are living in Vietnam so you have quite a lot of options to learn Vietnamese. But for foreigner who has never been in Vietnam, I think the material is OK for them as long as the development group try to stick to one accent to not confuse them. I just want to give a fun fact that's there's something call "standard Vietnamese" which basically no one actually says that. The Hanoi people do not say "s" "gi" "r" "tr" correctly (the guy in Duolingo does not follow "standard accent" also) while the "standard accent" tones are really close to what Hanoian say.
Well, it's not like Duolingo is going to really teach you to speak in one accent or another anyway, seeing as its focus is on reading and writing. It's a great basis upon which a learner can take to learn a specific dialect later.