When learning the Vietnamese language (Tiếng Việt), you may hear that there are different Vietnamese dialects. The dialects are spoken in different regions in Vietnam.
So, what are the Vietnamese dialects? Which one should you learn? In this article, I am going to give you more details about that with specific examples.
What Are The Five Vietnamese Dialects?
There are 3 (three) main Vietnamese dialects that are widely mentioned in articles: Northern, Central, and Southern. However, some researchers say that there should be 5 (five) major dialects:
- Northern Vietnamese
- North-Central Vietnamese
- Mid-Central Vietnamese
- South-Central Vietnamese
- Southern Vietnamese
You may already guess where these dialects are spoken just by their name. These dialects differ mostly in their sound system and sometimes in vocabulary and grammar.
Kindly note that each main dialect is also spoken differently in different provinces or cities. For example, people who were born in Quang Nam province have a bit different pronunciation than people born in Danang city, but they all belong to the South-Central Vietnamese.
Northern Vietnamese Dialect
The Northern Vietnamese accent is used in the Red River Delta region, including Hanoi (the capital), Haiphong, and the cities or provinces in the Northeast and Northwest of the Red River Delta.
The Northern dialect, especially the Hanoi accent, is used extensively in the national TV news. It has been considered the standard Vietnamese language, but some people from the South of Vietnam may argue about that.
The following consonants in the Vietnamese language are pronounced quite similarly in the Northern accent:
- D, GI, R are pronounced as /dz/ in ‘jingle’ or ‘Jack’.
- S, X are pronounced as /s/ in ‘six’ or ‘single’.
- TR, CH are pronounced as /ch/ in ‘church’ or ‘channel’.
The vocabulary used in the Northern accent, especially in Hanoi, is considered the official language and used in formal documents.
North-Central Vietnamese Dialect
The North-Central Vietnamese (Northern Central) dialect is spoken in the Thanh Hoa, Nghe An, and Ha Tinh provinces. The Thanh Hoa dialect is closer to the Northern Vietnamese dialect, while the Nghe An-Ha Tinh dialect is somewhat closer to the Mid-Central Vietnamese language.
In Thanh Hoa, they speak in 5 tones as the high broken tone (thanh Ngã) is pronounced the same way as the low rising tone (thanh Hỏi). For example, ‘Đà Nẵng‘ is spoken as ‘Đà Nẳng‘.
The dialect of Nghe An and Ha Tinh is known as difficult to understand, even for people from the North and the South of Vietnam. This is because the tones in this dialect are mixed up, and they use many different vocabularies, such as ‘mi’ (you), ‘mần’ (do), ‘chi’ (what), ‘răng’ (why). The words are also used in Thanh Hoa.
Mid-Central Vietnamese Dialect
People in Quang Binh, Quang Tri, and Hue provinces speak the Mid-Central Vietnamese dialect. In this dialect, people speak clearly the consonants that are merged in the Northern Vietnamese dialect: tr/ch, s/x, d/gi/r.
There are five tones used in these areas. The tones are pronounced differently from how they are pronounced in the Northern dialect. For example, they don’t differentiate between the low rising tone (thanh Hỏi) and the high broken tone (thanh Ngã). These tones are pronounced similarly to the heavy tone (thanh Nặng) in the Northern Vietnamese language.
Some vowels are changed in their pronunciation even though the spelling is still the same. For example, ‘oi’ is pronounced as ‘oai’, ‘anh’ is pronounced as ‘ăn’ or ‘ân’.
People in these provinces use the same vocabulary as the North-Central Vietnamese dialect.
South-Central Vietnamese Dialect
The South-Central Vietnamese accent is used in Da Nang, Quang Nam, Quang Ngai, Binh Dinh, Phu Yen, and Nha Trang.
This dialect doesn’t have the phrases in the Northern Central or Mid-Central dialects. People here use common words spoken in the Northern and Southern Vietnamese.
In terms of pronunciation, the low rising tone (thanh Hỏi) and the high broken tone (thanh Ngã) are similar. Consonant ‘v’ and ‘d’ are pronounced the same. A lot of vowels are changed in their pronunciation, such as ‘ă’ pronounced as ‘â’, ‘ô’ pronounced as ‘ơ’.
In general, the South-Central Vietnamese dialect is close to the Southern Vietnamese.
Southern Vietnamese Dialect
The Southern Vietnamese accent is widely spoken in the South Vietnamese, including Ba Ria – Vung Tau, Ho Chi Minh City, Lam Dong, and provinces in the Mekong Delta.
As same as the dialects in the Central Vietnam, the Southern dialect also has 5 tones. Some consonants are pronounced the same: ‘v/d’, ‘r/g’, ‘s/x’, ‘d/gi/r’, ‘tr/ch’. The following vowels are pronounced in the same way: ‘inh/in’, ‘ich/it’, ‘uc/ut’, ‘ung/un’.
The sound of people from Ho Chi Minh City is considered the easiest to understand with the Northern and Central Vietnamese people. There are many TV gameshows in Vietnam spoken in this dialect.
The people who speak the Southern dialect use different words from the ones who speak the Northern dialect.
Different Vocabulary In Vietnamese Accents
Northern Vietnamese Vs. Southern Vietnamese And South-Central Vietnamese
There are many different words between the Northern and the Southern dialects. Here are just some examples:
- Fat: béo (Northern), mập (Southern)
- Thin: gầy (Northern), ốm (Southern)
- Pig: con lợn (Northern), con heo (Southern)
- Fall off: ngã (Northern), té (Southern)
- Hat: mũ (Northern), nón (Southern)
- Socks: tất (Northern), vớ (Southern)
- MSG: mì chính (Northern), bột ngọt (Southern)
- Pineapple: quả dứa (Northern), trái thơm (Southern)
- Cucumber: quả dưa chuột (Northern), trái dưa leo (Southern)
- Blanket: cái chăn (Northern), cái mền (Southern)
- Peanut: củ lạc (Northern), đậu phộng (Southern)
- Expensive: đắt (Northern), mắc (Southern)
It seems that the Southern Vietnamese phrases are also known by many people from the North of Vietnam, so they can still understand the Southern accent spoken in TV gameshows.
Northern Vietnamese Vs. North-Central Vietnamese And Mid-Central Vietnamese
- You (informal): mi (Central), mày (Northern)
- I (informal): tau (Central), tao (Northern)
- We (informal): choa (Central), chúng tao (Northern)
- You guys (informal): (bọn) bây (Central), các bạn (Northern)
- Where: mô (Central), đâu (Northern)
- Ending question: rứa (Central), thế (Northern)
- Why: răng (Central), sao (Northern)
- This: ni (Central), này (Northern)
- That: nớ (Central), kia (Northern)
- Aunt (Dad’s younger sister): o (Central), cô (Northern)
- What: chi (Central), gì (Northern)
Which Vietnamese Dialect Should You Learn?
It depends on where you want to go visit in Vietnam and which one you prefer to learn. All dialects of Vietnamese are beautiful and need your effort to learn. Although there are a number of phrases in different dialects, the dialects in the North and the South seem to be widely understood by almost all Vietnamese people. The Central Vietnamese accents seem to be the hardest to learn and understand.
The Northern accent seems to be a bit challenging to foreigners whose first language is not a tonal language, such as French, English, or German. For people such as Chinese, Cantonese, and Thai, learning the Northern dialect is not a hard thing to do.
The Southern accent is favored by foreigners who are living in the South of Vietnam. When many consonants and vowels are pronounced the same as mentioned earlier, this dialect seems to be easier for Westerners to learn.
However, suppose you travel to the North or many regions in Vietnam. In that case, the Northern dialect is highly recommended as it is considered the standard language and understood by people from the Central and the Southern areas as well.
Learn More About Vietnamese Dialects With Ling
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