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Vietnamese Language

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Discover the beauty of Vietnamese language and unlock a world of opportunities. Whether you're planning a trip or want to connect with Vietnamese-speaking communities, mastering Vietnamese is an exciting and fulfilling pursuit. In this guide, we'll explore effective strategies and practical tips to help you navigate the intricacies of the language.

Key Considerations

Vietnamese Alphabet

When beginning to learn a language, it is essential to start with the alphabet. The Vietnamese alphabet consists of 29 letters. Unlike English, Vietnamese does not have the letters w, z, and j.

  • Vowel System: Vietnamese has 9 single vowels: a, e, ê, i, o, ô, u, ơ, ư; 3 double vowels: iê, uô, ươ; and 2 short vowels: ă, â.

  • Consonant System

Single Consonants: 17 - b, c, d, đ, g, h, k, l, m, n, p, q, r, s, t, v, x

Double Consonants: gh, kh, nh, ph, th, ch, tr, ngh, ng

How to pronounce the Vietnamese alphabet: This is the first step in introducing Vietnamese to learners, just as it is for any other language. The purpose is to make the readers familiar with the correct pronunciation of each letter. For example, when seeing letters with the sound "a," pronounce it as an open "a" combined with the preceding consonant. It is only necessary to remember the pronunciation of consonants and vowels to read Vietnamese accurately without knowing the meaning. However, it's important not to burden learners with memorizing the "names" of the letters like "mờ, nờ, pờ, ..." (similar to other languages). Also, note that for teachers, it is crucial to adopt a consistent way of pronouncing the alphabet, preferably following the commonly accepted standard today (a, bờ, cờ instead of a, bê, xê...).

When learning the Vietnamese alphabet, it is recommended to have students rewrite it to practice writing Latin letters, especially for those using pictographic character systems like Chinese or non-Latin scripts (Japanese, Korean, Thai, etc.).

Proper Vietnamese Pronunciation

Vietnamese is a monosyllabic tonal language, meaning that syllables (also known as tones) are pronounced separately. Therefore, there are words with a single syllable, such as sách (book) or vở (notebook), as well as words composed of two syllables, such as vui vẻ (happy), hạnh phúc (happiness). Therefore, for foreign learners to achieve good pronunciation in Vietnamese, it is important to pronounce each syllable and syllable group correctly. For example, cảm ơn (thank you) should be pronounced with clear emphasis on "cảm" and "ơn." For foreign learners, it is recommended to speak slowly and clearly, pronouncing each syllable one by one and gradually increasing the speed. This demonstrates the importance of pronunciation in Vietnamese because if a word is pronounced incorrectly, Vietnamese people will not understand it, while if grammar is incorrect, Vietnamese people can still understand it.

The most challenging aspect for foreign learners when learning Vietnamese is the tones. Vietnamese is one of the languages with the most tones in the world (6 tones): level, grave, acute, question, sharp, and heavy. Pronouncing the wrong tone can lead to different meanings, such as bàn (table) versus bán (sell) versus bạn (friend).

Mastering Vietnamese Tones

To learn and master the tones in Vietnamese, it is crucial to provide students with visual aids and practice exercises. Here are a few tips to help learners differentiate and pronounce the tones correctly:

Tone Marks: Vietnamese utilizes diacritic marks to indicate different tones.

The most commonly used tone marks are:

  • Level tone (no mark): This is considered the "default" tone with no diacritic mark.

  • Grave accent (à, è, ì, ò, ù, ỳ): Indicates a low-falling tone.

  • Acute accent (á, é, í, ó, ú, ý): Indicates a high-rising tone.

  • Question mark (ả, ẻ, ỉ, ỏ, ủ, ỷ): Indicates a mid-dipping tone.

  • Tilde (ã, ẽ, ĩ, õ, ũ, ỹ): Indicates a nasalized tone.

  • Hook above (ạ, ẹ, ị, ọ, ụ, ỵ): Indicates a low-rising tone.

Tone Pairs: It can be helpful to learn tone pairs, which consist of two words that only differ in tone. Practice saying these pairs aloud to develop a better sense of tonal distinctions. Some common tone pairs include:

  • Má (mother) vs. Mà (but)

  • Ba (three) vs. Bà (grandmother)

  • Sắc (sharp) vs. Sạch (clean)

  • Hỏi (ask) vs. Hội (association)

Mimicking Native Speakers: Listening to and mimicking native speakers is invaluable for acquiring correct tones. Watching videos, listening to Vietnamese songs, or engaging in conversations with native speakers can enhance your ability to reproduce the tones accurately.

Tone Contours: Understanding tone contours can aid in correct pronunciation. Vietnamese tones can change depending on the surrounding tones within a sentence. For instance, a rising tone followed by a falling tone might result in a falling tone with a slight rise at the end. Pay attention to these subtle changes in tone when speaking Vietnamese.

Which Dialect To Learn

Vietnamese is a tonal language with several dialects spoken in different regions of Vietnam. The two main dialects are Northern Vietnamese (Hanoi dialect) and Southern Vietnamese (Saigon dialect). Each dialect has its unique characteristics, and the choice of which one to learn depends on your specific goals, interests, and practical considerations. Let's delve into the pros and cons of each dialect:

Northern Vietnamese (Hanoi dialect):


  • Standard and widely used: Northern Vietnamese is considered the standard dialect used in education, media, and official communication throughout Vietnam. Learning this dialect may make it easier to communicate with people from different regions and formal settings.

  • Rich literary tradition: Many classical Vietnamese literature and poems are written in the Hanoi dialect, making them valuable for exploring the country's cultural heritage.

  • Pronunciation clarity: Some learners find the Northern dialect's pronunciation to be clearer and easier to understand due to its distinct enunciation.


  • Complex tones: Northern Vietnamese has six tones, which can be challenging for non-native speakers to master. The tone differences can significantly impact the meaning of words and phrases.

  • Formal tone: The Hanoi dialect can sound more formal, which might be a disadvantage if you plan to use Vietnamese primarily in informal or casual settings.

Southern Vietnamese (Saigon dialect):


  • Dynamic and informal: Southern Vietnamese has a more relaxed and informal tone, making it well-suited for everyday conversations, colloquial language, and building personal connections.

  • Easier pronunciation: The Southern dialect has fewer tones (five or six, depending on the region), which can be less intimidating for learners and potentially lead to fewer misunderstandings.

  • Vibrant media presence: Much of Vietnam's entertainment industry is centered in the South, so learning this dialect might be beneficial if you're interested in movies, music, and pop culture.


  • Dialect variations: The Southern dialect can vary significantly across different regions of the South, making it a bit less standardized compared to the Northern dialect.

  • Limited use in formal settings: While Southern Vietnamese is widely understood, it may not be the primary choice for formal occasions or official settings.

Ultimately, the decision on which Vietnamese dialect to learn depends on your specific goals. If you aim to communicate in formal settings, such as in business or educational contexts, the Northern dialect might be more suitable. On the other hand, if you plan to live in Southern Vietnam or want to immerse yourself in the local culture and daily life, learning the Southern dialect could be more beneficial.

Vocabulary and Grammar

Vocabulary Building

Expanding your vocabulary is essential for effective communication. Begin with basic words and gradually progress to more advanced vocabulary. It is advisable to learn vocabulary in context, such as through dialogues or themed lessons.

Grammar Structure

Vietnamese grammar follows a subject-verb-object (SVO) order. Here are a few key grammar points to focus on:

  • Nouns: Learn how to form plurals and use classifiers for counting.

  • Verbs: Understand verb conjugation, verb tenses, and the use of auxiliary verbs.

  • Adjectives: Learn how to use adjectives to describe nouns and understand adjective placement.

  • Sentence Structure: Study word order, question formation, and the use of particles to convey different meanings.

  • Language Practice: Regularly engage in conversation with native Vietnamese speakers to practice your language skills. Join language exchange programs or find language partners to improve your speaking and listening abilities.


If possible, visit Vietnam or participate in Vietnamese cultural events in your local area. Interacting with native speakers and experiencing the language in its natural setting can greatly enhance your language skills

Reading and Writing

  • Reading Practice: Reading Vietnamese texts, such as short stories, newspapers, or online articles, can enhance your reading comprehension. Start with simpler texts and gradually progress to more complex materials.

  • Writing Practice: Regularly practice writing in Vietnamese to reinforce your language skills. Start with simple sentences and gradually increase the complexity. Consider keeping a journal or writing essays to improve your writing proficiency.

  • Language Resources: Utilize Vietnamese language resources such as textbooks, online courses, mobile apps, and language learning websites. These resources can provide structured lessons, exercises, and additional reading materials to support your learning journey.


Remember, learning a new language takes time, dedication, and consistent practice

Compare with European language

No Gendered Nouns

One advantage of Vietnamese compared to languages like French, Spanish, German, or almost any other European language (except English) is that it lacks grammatical gender. You don't need to memorize gender-specific articles for vocabulary words in Vietnamese.

Omission of Articles

Unlike English, Vietnamese doesn't use articles like "a" or "the." In Vietnamese, you can simply state the subject without the need for articles, as the context often makes it clear enough.

No Plural Form

Vietnamese doesn't have plural forms like English. In English, we often add "s" to indicate plurals, but in Vietnamese, all words are like "sheep" – the same in singular and plural contexts. If needed, you can add a word before the noun to specify the quantity.

No Conjugation of Verbs

Unlike languages such as Spanish or French, Vietnamese verbs do not have various forms depending on the subject or tense. Verbs in Vietnamese always remain the same, regardless of the context. This makes learning verb usage much simpler.

Simple Verb Tenses

In Vietnamese, expressing different tenses is straightforward. You can add a few words before the verb to indicate the desired tense, such as "đã" (past), "mới" (just completed, closer to the present than "đã"), "đang" (right now, near future), "sắp" (near future), and "sẽ" (future).

No Need to Learn New Alphabet

Vietnamese uses the Latin alphabet (Quốc ngữ), which was introduced about a century ago, replacing the complex logographic script known as "chữ Nôm." Unlike many other Asian languages like Chinese, Japanese, or Korean, you don't need to learn a new set of characters.

Consistent Pronunciation

In Vietnamese, words are pronounced consistently regardless of their context. There are no major discrepancies in pronunciation, making it easier for learners to read and understand words.

Minimal Grammar

Vietnamese grammar is relatively simple. You can often convey your point of view with the minimum number of words, and the grammar remains accurate even if learners occasionally use the wrong word order.

Remember, learning a new language takes time, dedication, and consistent practice. By following these tips and staying committed to your language learning journey, you can make significant progress in mastering the Vietnamese language. Good luck!