By Rachel Diebel
Vietnam is a country in Southeast Asia, known for its beautiful beaches and rivers, for magnificent Buddhist pagodas, and for busy cities like the capital of Hanoi. The people are energetic and direct, and there is enough fascinating history and outdoor thrills to capture every visitor’s imagination.
Ninety million people around the world speak Vietnamese, in countries from Vietnam itself to the United States. Though some Vietnamese terms change slightly depending on whether you are talking to a man or a woman and how old they are, the basic grammatical rules are very simple. Nouns and adjectives are not gendered as they are in romance languages, which is a bit easier on the memory.
However, Vietnamese is a tonal language, which means that the meaning of some words changes depending on how high or low your voice is when you speak. Spelling is essentially phonetic, like Portuguese on which it is based.
Hoan nghênh (hong-oon)
Xin chào (sin chow), unless you are answering the phone, which is A-lô (AH-loh)
Tạm biệt (tam byet)
Chào buổi sang (chow boy song)
Xin chào (sin chow)
Chào buổi tối (chow boo doy)
Cảm ơn. (gauhm uhhn)
No, thank you
Không cám ơn (kaumng gauhm ahn)
Làm ơn. (lam uhhn)
Xin lỗi (sin loy)
Vâng (vuhng) or Da (zah) if you are being extra respectful
Cheers! (toast when drinking)
Chúc sức khoẻ! (keo say kwa)
Xin lỗi (sin loy), the same as “excuse me”
What is your name?
Formally to a man: Ông tên là gì? (ohng ten la zee)
Formally to a woman: Bà tên là gì? (baa ten la zee)
Informally to a man: Anh tên là gì? (ang ten la zee)
Informally to a woman: Cô tên là gì? (koh ten la zee)
My name is…
Tôi tên là… (Toy ten la …)
How are you?
Ahn khỏe không? (ahn kweh kohng)
Where are you from?
Ông từ đâu đến? (Oong due dow den)
I’m pleased to meet you.
Hân hạnh gặp ông (hang ha gab ow)
Do you speak English?
Biết nói tiếng Anh không? (byet noy tyeng ang kaumng)
How do you say…in Vietnamese?
Bạn nói … thế nào trong tiếng Việt? (Ban noi…te now tong te Viet)
I don’t understand.
Tôi không hiểu (toy kohng hugh)
I’d like to order…
Toi muon an (thoy moowan un) for “I’d like to eat,” and Toi muon uong (thoy moowan oowanh) for “I’d like to drink”
A noodles and pork dish
Cao lau (cao lau)
Vietnamese fish cake
Cha ca (cha ka)
Banh xeo (bahn zow)
Bánh mì (baanh me)
Fried eggs with sausage
Ốp la (oop la)
Meat and vermicelli soup
Bún riêu (bun rieu)
Vermicelli and beef soup
Bún bò Huế (bun bo Hue)
Tắc xi! (tuck see)
Xe hơi (ze huee)
Xe buýt (ze bweet)
Xe Dap (ze dahp)
Xe Máy (ze may)
“Hugging” motorbike service (riding on the back of a motorcycle)
Xe Ôm (ze omm)
Where is the toilet?
Cầu tiêu ở đâu? (koh tee-oh uh doh)
Cứu với! (gih-OO vuh-y!)
Call the police!
Xin gọi cảnh sát! (sin goy kant sant)
Leave me alone.
Đừng làm phiền tôi. (DUHung LAHm fien Toy)
Say what you want followed by: ….ở đâu (…uh doh)
Resources to Learn Vietnamese
Arizona State University has a number of resources to practice and learn more online.
There are a number of YouTube videos, including this one by VietnamesePod101.com.
Or if you’re just beginning, you can find language learning courses online, like VietnamesePod101.com that’s free and gives you access to podcasts and lessons, mostly for free.
Non La: Lucas Jans via Flickr
Vietnamese People: missmei via Flickr
Hanoi City Tour: Lady May Pamintuan via Flickr
Vietnamese Restaurant: Incase via Flickr
Vietnam Motorcycle: manhhai via Flickr
Hanoi Police: Rosino via Flickr