Initially compiled by Yves Bertrais, a French missionary who helped develop the RPA writing system for the Hmong language, this list encompasses the most commonly used words you might encounter in written and spoken Hmong. The first several pages break down the Hmong language by highlighting the most common individual sounds-consonants, vowels, and tones. Subsequently, the final 6 pages list the most commonly used Hmong words, including nouns, verbs, classifiers, and every other part of speech you can think of. Although there are some notable omissions, mainly in the form of conjunctions, this list is nevertheless an incredibly valuable starting point from which to increase your fluency! Below, find a short description of 2 separate activities based on this resource that will allow you to practice some essential components of the Hmong language.
Activity 1: Pronunciation
Using the combination of vowels and tones listed on page one, practice pronouncing full words (some will have no meaning, of course, but the goal is to master the sounds themselves) using each consonant listen on the next pages. Begin by adding an -a to each consonant, along with cim ua (the flat tone). After making it through the list, return to each consonant, keeping the same -a but now adding cim siab (-b tone) to each newly-formed word. Repeat as needed for each vowel and tone combination. This can feel quite onerous, as the complete list takes almost a half hour to get through. As such, I’d encourage you to highlight consonants, vowels, and tones that you struggle with in order to streamline the process. Additionally, consider recording yourself and playing it back before you try again; doing so will allow you to hone in on the ways you need to switch up your pronunciation. Remember, the goal is not simply to get it right the first time, but to be able to consistently and accurately say each sound. Recording can also help with this aspect, as it will allow you to see how your pronunciation changes with each round, in addition to determining how your vowels, consonants, or tones change in relation to the combination you use them in!
Activity 2: Vocabulary
This is a two-part activity designed to help you expand your understanding of each word will simultaneously increasing your ability to use them effectively. First, create flashcards of each word. Online or in person dictionaries will offer easy access to accurate definitions. I personally use Quizlet, but I know others have had success using services like Anki or even paper flashcards. After you feel like you’ve gotten good handle on each word, attempt to create coherent sentences using only the words listed in the resource. For more advanced learners seeking to expand their vocabulary on a specific topic, you might bring in an additional list of vocabulary words and attempt to form sentences by combining the words from this resource with your new target vocabulary. Finally, if you’re looking for a fun twist on the activity, attempt to write a paj huam (find the instructions on how to create a poem on the paj huam page of this website) using only the terms provided in this resource!