Language learning can be a labyrinth of surprises, especially when you stumble upon words that, at first sight, seem odd but sound strikingly familiar when pronounced. These are often “loan words” – terms borrowed from a foreign language. Today, we turn the spotlight on loan words in Vietnamese, an intriguingly rich language peppered with loan words that may astonish you.
Taking a little trip to Vietnam’s history, did you know that China ruled them for a thousand years? While France also colonized them for 29 years. With its history imprinted by colonization and global trade, it’s inevitable for them not to have loan words from these colonizers.
Loan words serve as linguistic remnants of cultural and historical exchanges between nations. Some of these maintain their original pronunciation and spelling, while others are tweaked to suit Vietnamese phonetics. In this feature, we’ve collated 15+ loan words in Vietnamese, mostly from French and Chinese, which are easy to learn and use. Brace yourself as we delve into these intriguing Vietnamese loan words!
16 Interesting Loan Words In Vietnamese To Learn
Learning these easy-to-learn loan words in Vietnamese enhances your Vietnamese vocabulary and understanding. Incorporating them into your learning journey provides a glimpse into the historical and cultural exchanges that have shaped their language. So here we gathered some Chinese and French loanwords that’ll help you connect deeper with Vietnamese history.
1. Cà Phê (Coffee)
[Speechword voice=”Vietnamese Male” isinline]Cà Phê[/Speechword]
Beginning the day with a steamy cup of cà phê, the Vietnamese people pay homage to their French colonizers. The term, derived from the French word “café,” acts as an aromatic reminder of the French influence on Vietnamese culture and language, signifying a bond brewed over centuries.
- Tôi uống cà phê mỗi buổi sáng. (I drink coffee every morning.)
2. Xe Buýt (Bus)
[Speechword voice=”Vietnamese Female” isinline]Xe Buýt[/Speechword]
Imagine bustling through the vibrant streets of Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City in xe buýt. This term, derived from the French word “autobus,” signifies an aspect of public transportation that has remained in the Vietnamese lexicon from the French colonial era, shaping the language and people’s lives.
- Tôi đi làm bằng xe buýt hằng ngày. (I commute to work by bus every day.)
3. Trà (Tea)
[Speechword voice=”Vietnamese Female” isinline]Trà[/Speechword]
In the heart of the bustling Vietnamese cities lies the soothing simplicity of a cup of trà. This word, one of the many Chinese loanwords, reflects the profound influence the country had on Vietnam’s culture and language through centuries of interaction and proximity.
- Bạn có muốn uống trà xanh không? (Would you like to have green tea?)
4. Bánh mì (Bread)
[Speechword voice=”Vietnamese Female” isinline]Bánh mì[/Speechword]
The Vietnamese culinary scene features a delightful fusion called bánh mì, a sandwich made with a type of baguette. Borrowed from the French word “pain,” this term serves as a savory testament to the French influence on Vietnamese cuisine and language.
- Mua bánh mì để làm bánh mì sandwich. (Buy some bread to make sandwiches.)
5. Bia (Beer)
[Speechword voice=”Vietnamese Female” isinline]Bia[/Speechword]
Celebrations in Vietnam often involve clinking glasses of bia. Derived from the French word “bière,” this term adds a bubbly touch of French influence to Vietnamese festivities, both in the linguistic and cultural realm.
- Chúng ta cùng uống bia vào cuối tuần. (Let’s have beer together on the weekend.)
6. Phở (Vietnamese Noodle Soup)
[Speechword voice=”Vietnamese Female” isinline]Phở[/Speechword]
A visit to Vietnam is incomplete without indulging in the national dish, phở. Derived from the Chinese word “fen,” this term mirrors the fusion of Chinese and Vietnamese cultures, embodied in a steaming bowl of this noodle soup.
- Tôi thích ăn phở gà. (I like to eat chicken pho.)
7. Áo Sơ Mi (Shirt)
[Speechword voice=”Vietnamese Female” isinline]Áo Sơ Mi[/Speechword]
The term áo sơ mi, meaning shirt, originates from the Chinese word “xī zhuāng.” This linguistic adaptation mirrors the East Asian influence on Vietnam’s fashion industry, weaving together two cultures in threads of commonality.
- Tôi cần mua một chiếc áo sơ mi mới. (I need to buy a new shirt.)
8. Bút (Pen)
[Speechword voice=”Vietnamese Female” isinline]Bút[/Speechword]
In the Vietnamese language, the tool of knowledge, the pen, is referred to as bút, a word borrowed from the Chinese “bǐ.” This illustrates the far-reaching impact of China’s literary tradition on Vietnam’s educational system and language.
- Bạn có thể cho mượn bút tôi không? (Can you lend me a pen?)
9. Xích Lô (Cycle Rickshaw)
[Speechword voice=”Vietnamese Female” isinline]Xích Lô[/Speechword]
Take a journey back in time with the xích lô, a cycle rickshaw reminiscent of a bygone era. This term, borrowed from the Chinese word “siklo,” is a testament to the modes of transportation that once dominated the busy streets of Vietnam.
- Đi du lịch xích lô để khám phá thành phố. (Take a cycle rickshaw tour to explore the city.)
10. Nước Mắm (Fish Sauce)
[Speechword voice=”Vietnamese Female” isinline]Nước Mắm[/Speechword]
The tangy nước mắm, a ubiquitous condiment in Vietnamese cuisine, derives its name from the Chinese word “yóu,” This illustrates the intertwining of Chinese and Vietnamese culinary traditions, adding a dash of linguistic spice to the mix.
- Hãy thêm một ít nước mắm vào món ăn để tăng hương vị. (Add fish sauce to the dish to enhance the flavor.)
11. Bánh Cuốn (Steamed Rice Rolls)
[Speechword voice=”Vietnamese Female” isinline]Bánh Cuốn[/Speechword]
The term for this classic Vietnamese dish, bánh cuốn, originates from the Chinese words “bánh” and “cuốn.” The word’s journey from China to Vietnam serves as a symbol of the twisted relationship shared by these two Asian nations, reflected in their food and language.
- Tôi thích ăn bánh cuốn với nước mắm. (I like to eat steamed rice rolls with fish sauce.)
12. Máy Tính (Computer)
[Speechword voice=”Vietnamese Female” isinline]Máy Tính[/Speechword]
The digital world in Vietnam is navigated with the máy tính. Borrowed from the Chinese words “máy” and “tính,” this term symbolizes China’s influence on Vietnam’s technological landscape and the resultant evolution of the Vietnamese language.
- Tôi dùng máy tính hàng ngày để làm việc. (I use the computer every day for work.)
13. Đèn (Lamp)
[Speechword voice=”Vietnamese Female” isinline]Đèn[/Speechword]
When the sun sets in Vietnam, homes are illuminated with the light of a đèn. This word, derived from the Chinese “dēng,” shines a light on the spectrum of Chinese influence scattered across the Vietnamese language.
- Tôi muốn mua một cái đèn để đọc sách. (I want to buy a lamp to read books.)
14. Quần (Pants)
[Speechword voice=”Vietnamese Female” isinline]Quần[/Speechword]
In the fashion vocabulary of the Vietnamese language, quần, meaning pants, is an adopted word from the Chinese “kù.” This illustrates the Chinese influence on Vietnamese attire, mirrored in the shared linguistics.
- Tôi thích ăn mua một chiếc quần mới. (I like to buy a new pair of pants.)
15. Đồng Hồ (Watch)
[Speechword voice=”Vietnamese Female” isinline]Đồng Hồ[/Speechword]
Keep track of time in Vietnam with the đồng hồ. This term, crafted from the Chinese words “dòng” and “hào,” is an illustration of the passage of time and the enduring Chinese influence on the Vietnamese language.
- Bạn có một chiếc đồng hồ đẹp. (You have a beautiful watch.)
16. Xa Lát (Salad)
[Speechword voice=”Vietnamese Female” isinline]Xa Lát[/Speechword]
You may have expected this already, that there are English words borrowed from their language. Here we have xa lát, which translates to the word “salad” in English. Upon reading it the first time, even without the translation, you can already tell their similarities.
- Tôi thích ăn xa lát trái cây vào mùa hè. (I enjoy eating fruit salad during the summer.)
Interested In Learning More About Vietnam? Try Ling Today!
You managed to take a deeper swim into Vietnamese vocabulary and history, don’t you think? Given the loanword situation in the country, they still managed to incorporate their native vocabulary as they formed new terms from these borrowed words from France and China. Want to learn more Vietnamese words and phrases? Ling is here to aid your learning journey!
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