I finished reading my second book in Vietnamese today. It was, without a doubt, the hardest book I have ever read. With the exception of classical Chinese, maybe. It took over four months to get through this skinny little book that only has only 221 pages.
The book is a collection of essays, social criticism of modern Vietnam. The author has a PhD from a University in Austria, and is clearly very, very educated. He returned to Vietnam after living abroad for many years, and writes essays about his impressions of Vietnamese society. My teacher says he publishes online. Probably because the newspapers (they’re all state-owned here, and very un-free) would never publish his stuff.
As I was reading, I had to look up a lot of words that I didn’t know. It was not unusual for me to have to look up 20 or 30 different words on every page. It would take me about an hour to read one short essay.
We’ve been going over the essays in my one-on-one Vietnamese class. My teacher, who has the patience of a saint, explains the author’s prose, and the events that the author writes about. It’s a great way to learn, and I did learn a lot from the book, but it was also a very humbling experience. If you want to feel stupid, try reading something way above your reading level in a foreign language.