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The Language That Doesn’t Have Words for “I Love You”

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Every language has unique phrases and words to describe feelings or emotions. But in Vietnamese, it is impossible to tell someone directly that you love them.

Not for a lack of romance, of course. There are over 40 different pronouns to describe a relationship in Vietnamese, but “you” and “I” don’t have colloquial phrases. Instead, the Vietnamese ask the age of people they are meeting, to use the proper aged pronoun (“ahn”, “chi”, “em”, etc.), which dictate the level of respect of the person. To declare any type of love, you have to use one of these pronounce to form a full sentence like “older sister loves younger brother”.

So, to simply say the three words that truly can define a relationship regardless of pronouns, is actually (and unfortunately) impossible.

Also interesting: Vietnamese women often chose to be referred to by the younger pronoun, even though the older pronoun commands more respect,. I guess women wanting to appear younger isn’t just a Western thing.

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