Vietnamese is the official language in the Asian nation of Vietnam, located on the Indochina Peninsula in the southeastern corner of the continent. Interestingly, it is also recognized as an official minority language in the Czech Republic. Vietnamese is the native language of nearly eighty million people around the world, but it is primarily spoken by the Kinh people of Vietnam. It is also the second language of many Vietnamese citizens, who speak a variety of other Asian languages.
It is classified as an Austroasiatic language, and is the most widely spoken language in the Austroasiatic family, by a large margin. The Austroasiatic languages are spoken throughout Southeast Asia, including regions of Bangladesh, India, and southern China. Of these languages, Vietnamese is one of only two that are recognized as official national languages, the other being Khmer, which is spoken in Cambodia.
The nation of Vietnam, officially called the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, is the thirteenth most populous country in the world, and the eighth most populous country in Asia, with a population of roughly ninety million people. It borders Cambodia, Laos, China, and the South China Sea, and has a land area of nearly one hundred and twenty nine thousand square miles. Vietnamese is the only recognized official language in Vietnam, and about eighty-five percent of the population belongs to the Vietnamese ethnic group; small segments of the population belong to seven other ethnic groups, including Tai, Hoa, and Hmong peoples. Vietnam has a long history of political and governmental change; it has transformed from part of Imperial China, to a land ruled by royal dynasty, to a French colony, to separate North and South Vietnam, to a communist state, resulting in the socialist republic it is today.
Vietnamese is written today using a Latin alphabet, with additional accents and glyphs added to certain letters. It was formerly written using Chữ Nôm, a writing system that incorporated Chinese characters as well as unique characters based on the Chinese system. Some Vietnamese vocabulary is borrowed from the Chinese language, and this vocabulary is characterized as Sino-Vietnamese. The language is spoken primarily in Vietnam, but some speakers also live in China, which borders Vietnam to the north. Vietnam is actually quite widely spoken in the United States, where it is the sixth most spoken language, particularly popular in Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas, and California. There are also many Vietnamese speakers living in France and Australia.
Vietnamese is characterized by a large number of vowels, diphthongs, and triphthongs, as well as many nasal sounds that accompany the pronunciation of certain consonants. Furthermore, each vowel is pronounced with a specific tone, characterized by length and the pitch of the pronunciation. These complexities must be studied in order to develop a complete understanding of spoken Vietnamese.
The Vietnamese language varies a good deal by region, and five distinct dialects are recognized in the country. They are Northern Vietnamese, North-Central Vietnamese, Mid-Central Vietnamese, South-Central Vietnamese, and Southern Vietnamese. These five dialects were even classified by three different names during the period of French colonization: Tonkinese, Annamese, and Cochinchinese. These regional dialects differ slightly from each other in terms of the spelling of certain words, and the pronunciation of vowels and consonants.
Useful Vietnamese Words and Phrases
A useful approach to learning Vietnamese is to begin with vocabulary and phrases that native speakers use in every day situations and conversations. It’s also a good idea to learn words and phrases that will be useful to you if you plan to travel to Vietnam; these include ways to identify yourself, and ask for information or help from those who do not speak English. Here are some useful words and phrases in Vietnamese:
Hi – Chào
Good morning – Chào buổi sáng
Good evening – Chào buổi tối
Welcome – Chào mừng bạn
How are you? (formal) – Bạn có khỏe không?
How are you? (informal) – Khỏe chứ?
I’m fine, thanks – Cám ơn bạn tôi khỏe
And you? – Bạn thì sao?
Good – Tốt
Bad – Xấu
So-so – Cũng tàm tạm
Thank you – Cám ơn
Thank you very much –Cám ơn rất nhiều
You’re welcome – Đừng ngại
Hey – Này
What’s new? – Có gì mới không?
Nothing much – Không có gì nhiều
See you later – Gặp lại sau nhé
Goodbye – Tạm biệt
Good night – Chúc ngủ ngon
What’s your name? – Bạn tên gì?
My name is – Tôi tên là
Do you speak English? – Bạn có nói tiếng Anh không?
Do you speak Vietnamese? – Bạn có nói tiếng Việt không?
Where are you from? – Bạn từđâu đến?
I’m from – Tôi đến từ…
Where do you live? – Bạn sống ởđâu?
I live in – Tôi sống ở
What do you do for a living? – Bạn làm gì để kiếm sống?
I work as a – Tôi làm
How old are you? – Bạn bao nhiêu tuổi?
I’m (age) years old – Tôi (age) tuổi.
Nice to meet you – Rất vui được gặp bạn.
Mr. – Ông
Mrs. – Bà
Miss – Cô
Excuse me – Xin lỗi cho hỏi
I’m lost – Tôi bị lạc
Can you help me? – Bạn giúp tôi đựơc không?
Where is the bathroom? – Phòng tắm ( nhà thuốc ) ởđâu?
I’m looking for (name) – Tôi đang tìm (name)
One moment please – Làm ơn đợi một lát!
How much is this? – Cái này giá bao nhiêu?
Come with me – Đi với tôi
I’m sorry – Xin lỗi
Can you say it again? – Bạn có thể nhắc lại được không?
Can you speak slowly? – Bạn có thể nói chậm lại không?
Write it down please – Làm ơn viết nó ra
I don’t understand – Tôi không hiểu
I don’t know – Tôi không biết
What’s that called in Vietnamese? – Cái đó gọi thể nào trong tiếng Việt?
What is this? – Cài này là gì?
How do you say (word) in Vietnamese? – Bạn nói (word) thế nào trong tiếng Việt?
My Vietnamese is bad – Tên tiếng Việt của tôi xấu
Big – Lớn
Small – Nhỏ
Today – Hôm nay
Now – Bây giờ
Tomorrow – Ngày mai
Yesterday – Hôm qua
Yes – Có /vâng /đúng vậy /ừ
No – Không
I’m hungry – Tôi đói
I’m thirsty – Tôi khát
In the morning – Vào buổi sáng
In the evening – Vào tối
At night – Vào ban đêm
This – Cái này
That – Cái kia
You – Bạn
Him – Anh ấy
Her- Cô ấy
What – Gì cơ
Where – ởđâu
What time is it? – Mấy giờ rồi?
It is 2 o’clock – 2 giờ
I feel sick – Tôi cảm thấy mệt
I need a doctor – Tôi cần đến bác sĩ
One – Một
Two – Hai
Three – Ba
Four – Bốn
Five – Năm
Six – Sáu
Seven – Bảy
Eight – Tám
Nine – Chin
Ten – Mừơi
Learning a new language can be very challenging, especially in terms of accents and pronunciation, but these phrases should enable you to communicate successfully with those who speak Vietnamese, and will prove especially helpful if you are planning to travel to Vietnam or its surrounding regions. Once you have practiced these phrases and learned them successfully, you can use them as a foundation to further your study of the Vietnamese language, allowing you to explore tenses, verb conjugations, and other grammar rules, and eventually to become an expert in spoken Vietnamese!