Have trouble with the Vietnamese spelling? This post is for you! Today, we will explain and show some tips about how to pronounce a Vietnamese word like a real pro. You will also see some examples of how a diacritic changes the meaning of a particular word in this language. I promise you are going to feel more confident when you speak Vietnamese after you read this blog post. Let’s get started!
The Vietnamese Language
Vietnamese (tiếng việt) belongs to the Vietic, Austroasiatic language family, and 75 million people speak it. When China dominated Vietnam, the main written language was Chinese, and the Vietnamese language was only used for oral language. Chinese words were read with Vietnamese pronunciation, and as a result, a lot of Chinese words were borrowed into the Vietnamese language.
In the 13th century, Vietnamese was written with a script adapted from Chinese, called Chữ-nôm. There were both Chinese characters and native Vietnamese words. This writing system was used until the 17th century. After some time, the Latin alphabet was introduced to Vietnamese by Roman missioners, which led to the rise of modern Vietnamese. Since then, Quốc Ngữ has been in use which is the official language of Vietnam today.
Dialects Of Vietnamese
There are three common dialects spoken in Vietnam, which are Hanoi (Northern Vietnamese) dialect, Hue (Central Vietnamese) dialect, and Saigon (Southern Vietnamese) dialect. The Northern dialect makes up the basis of the standard Vietnamese language, and it is the most commonly spoken one in the country. So, please learn this dialect.
How To Pronounce Vietnamese Letters
It is a fact that if you are not familiar with Asian languages, you are likely to have some trouble with pronunciation. But don’t worry, I got you! In this post, we will be explaining how to pronounce the Vietnamese alphabet with the help of IPA symbols and their English counterparts and example of Vietnamese words.
Pronunciation Of Vietnamese Vowels
|Vowels||IPA||English Counterparts||Vietnamese Words|
|a||/a:/||as in far||xa (far)|
|ă||/a/||as in father||mắt (eye)|
|â||/ə/||as in but||đất (earth)|
|e||/ɛ/||as in red||xe (vehicle)|
|ê||/e/||as in may||hên (lucky)|
|i, y||/i/||as in me||hình (age)|
|o||/ɔ/||as in law||lo (worried)|
|ô||/o/||as in spoke||cô (she)|
|ơ||/ə:/||as in sir||trơn (slippy)|
|u||/u/||as in boo||bún (noodle)|
|ư||/ɨ/||as in uh-uh||mứt (jam)|
Pronunciation Of Vietnamese Consonants
|Consonants||IPA||English Counterparts||Vietnamese Words|
|b||/b/||as in bee||bao (bag)|
|c, k, q||/k/||as in cat||con (child)|
|ch||/c/||as in chip||cho (give)|
|gi||/j/||as in yes||giá (price)|
|đ||/d/||as in do||đi (go)|
|g, gh||/g/||as in goal||ghen (jealous)|
|h||/h/||as in hat||hên (lucky)|
|kh||/x/||as in loch||khói (smoke)|
|l||/l/||as in link||lái (drive)|
|m||/m/||as in my||mẹ (mum)|
|n||/n/||as in net||nền (floor)|
|ng, ngh||/ŋ/||as in sing||ngồi (sit)|
|nh||/ɲ/||as in canyon||nhanh (fast)|
|p||/p/||as in pen||p: (in ph)|
|ph||/f/||as in fine||phở (pho)|
|qu||/kw/||as in queen||quen (familiar)|
|r||/r/||as in run||rau (vegetable)|
|s||/s/||as in sun||sen (lotus)|
|t||/t/||as in tip||tối (dark)|
|th||/tʰ/||as in thank||thích (like)|
|tr||/ʈʂ/||as in try||trơn (slippy)|
|v||/v/||as in vote||vẽ (draw)|
|x||/s/||as in stun||xem (watch)|
Some letters such as f, j, w, and z don’t belong to the Vietnamese alphabet. However, they are used in the borrowed words from a foreign language like Chinese vocabulary.
D and GI letters are pronounced as [z] in the northern dialects and [j] in the central, southern, and Saigon dialects.
V is pronounced as [v] in the northern dialects and [j] in the southern dialects.
R is pronounced as [ʐ, ɹ] in southern dialects.
Vietnamese Tones & Diacritics
There are six types of tones in the Vietnamese language. You should pay attention to them since they can change the meaning of a word. We will explain how to utter Vietnamese letters with diacritics, and you can see how a diacritic changes the meaning of the same letters.
- No diacritic: middle starting point; intonation remains level.
- The acute accent (´): middle starting point; gradual rising.
- Grave (`): low starting point; a gradual falling.
- Hook ( ̉ ): middle starting point; quick falling, staying there for a while, then quick-rising back to the near middle.
- Tilde (~): middle starting point; quick rising, slight gradual falling, quick rising.
- Dot (.): middle starting point; sharp falling.
The Cursive Script Of Vietnamese
There are two versions of the Vietnamese writing system. You could write Vietnamese words either with normal Latin letters or a cursive style, like a calligraphy style. The cursive style is beautiful handwriting, but it is more challenging than the normal one. This script was officially adopted in 2002, and it is still being taught in schools in Vietnam. It is also known as the ‘Decision 31’ Vietnamese cursive script.
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