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Helpful Vietnamese phrases for travelers

Vietnam is a worthwhile visiting country due to its picturesque landscapes, delicious food, hospitable people and low living cost. However, in the place where most of people can’t speak English, it’s best for you to learn some survival Vietnamese phrases to make the most of your trip in Vietnam. In this post, you will learn 60 useful phrases that will help you get around, order food, ask for directions and make friends.

Vietnamese Pronunciation

Vietnamese spelling is phonetic and very similar to Portuguese (which it is based on). Once you know how to pronounce each letter and tone, you will have a pretty good grasp of how to correctly pronounce Vietnamese words.There are three main varieties of spoken Vietnamese: Northern (used around Hanoi), which is somewhat different from Southern (Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City ), and Central (Hue). This guide used the Northern pronunciation.

Vietnamese Tonal System

If you listen closely to a Vietnamese speaker, you will notice that some words are pronounced with a high or low pitch and others sound more musical. This is because Vietnamese uses tones to make distinctions between words.
Vietnamese syllables have six different tones, with five of them indicated by tone marks applied to the syllable’s main vowel. Tone marks can be combined with the other diacritics. This is why Vietnamese sounds more musical.

Here’s an example of the letter a’ with it’s various sounds
a – flat
á – high rising; example: đấy, like saying “day?”
à – low
ã – creaky
 – falling, then rising
 – a low “a’ah”

The marks are very important because the meaning of the words will change when the marks change. For example:

Ba –means father

Bà –means grandmother

Bá- means mother’s older sister

Bả- means poisonous food for animals

Vietnamese Alphabet

Vietnamese uses the same alphabet as Latin languages with a few modifications which include tone and vowel markers. The Vietnamese alphabet has a 29-letter phonetic alphabet which includes all letters of in the English alphabet except j, f, w, and z. Vietnamese has 12 vowels and 17 consonants as shown below.

a (a in father) h (h in house) q (qu in queue)
ă (a in hat) i (e in she) r (r in run)
â (u in but) k (k in kick) s (s in sing)
b (b in baby) l (l in love) t (t in tea, but softer and unaspirated)
(c in can) m (m in mother) u (oo in good)
(z in zoo) n (n in nice) ư (oo in boot but with unrounded lips)
đ (d in do) o (o in hot) v (v in van)
e (e in trend) ô (o in hope) x (s in sea)
ê (a in mate) ơ (u in fur) y (e in she)
g  (g in go) p (p in pick)  

Basic phrasal in daily conversations

English Vietnamese Pronunciation Notes
Hello Xin chào Sin jaow   
Good morning Chào buổi sáng jaow bui sang 
Good afternoon Chào buổi tối jaow bui to-oy  
Good night Chúc Ngủ Ngon Choop nguu ngon 
Goodbye Chào jaow   
My name is… Tôi tên là… Toi ten lah… Put your name in blank space
I am from… Tôi là người… Toi lah ngoo-uh…    Put your nationality in blank space
How are you? Bạn khỏe không? Bahn kwair khohm? 
I’m well, and you? Tôi khỏe. bạn khỏe không? toi kwair. bahn kwair khohm? 
Good, thanks Tôi khỏe. Cám ơn Toi kwair. Gahm uhn.  “A” in “Gahm” is like the “a” in “apple”. Pronounce the “g” in “gahm” softly. Put your name.
Please Làm ơn Lahm uhn   
Thank you Cám ơn Gahm uhn
You’re welcome không có chi (Means “no problem”) Khohm gaw chee  
Yes dạ/vâng Ya/vang  
No Không Khohm   
Excuse me, sorry xin lỗi Seen loy   
I don’t understand Tôi không hiểu Toi khohm heww  Put your name in blank space ___.
Do you speak English? Bạn có nói tiếng Anh không? ban gaw noy dee-ing ahn khohm? Dee-ing: say it quickly since it’s one word. It’s pronounced like a soft “d”. Put the name of the person you’re asking in blank space ___.
Eating Out      
Beer Bia bee-ah   
Water nước nu-uhc   
I’d like to order… Tôi muốn ăn … thoy moowan un …  Put the dish in blank space ___.
I’m a vegetarian Tôi  ăn chay Thoi ahn jai 
The bill, please hóa đơn Hwhoa duhn   
 Noodle soup  Phở Phuh  
Sandwich Bánh mì Baanh me
Getting Around      
Left Trái chai   
Right phải fai   
Straight ahead thẳng trước mặt tung choo-uhk maht   
Turn left quẹo trái kheow jai   
Turn right quẹo phải kheow fai   
Bus stop điểm dừng xe buýt Dee-em yung se boo-wit  
Train station ga xe lửa Kha se luh-ua   
Airport sân bay suhn bai  
Where is… …. ở đâu …. Uh doh Put name of destination you want to go to in the blank space
Entrance chỗ vào (means “area you enter”) OR cửa vào (means “door entrance”) choh vao OR coo-ua vao   
Exit lối ra (means “exit area”) OR cửa ra(means “exit door) loy ra OR coo-ua ra 
Monday Thứ hai hu hai   
Tuesday Thứ ba Thu ba  
Wednesday Thứ tư Thu bohn 
Thursday Thứ năm Thu nahm   
Friday Thứ sáu Thu sao   
Saturday thứ bảy Thu bae   
Sunday chủ nhật Choo nhaht 
Help me! Giúp tôi! yoop toi   
I need a doctor tôi cần bác sĩ Toi khuhn back see 
Call the police! Gọi cảnhsát Goy cahn sat 
I don’t feel well Tôi không khỏe Toi khohm khwer 


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