NVL107 – Challenging You – How do you say ‘Hello. How are you?’ and ‘you’re welcome’ in Vietnamese.


You meet your friend Ms Thu on the street and greet her

  1. Chào cô. Hôm nay cô khoẻ không?
  2. Cảm ơn cô.
  3. Cô không mệt à?

Mr. Nam says hello to you and you respond,

  1. Cảm ơn anh. Hôm nay tôi khoẻ.
  2. Tôi không mệt lắm.
  3. Xin chào anh. (‘Xin chào anh’ is a more polite way of ‘Chào anh’

You ask after Mr. Hieu and say:

  1. Anh ấy vẫn khoẻ.
  2. Cô ấy không mệt lắm.
  3. Anh ấy có khoẻ không?

You ask after Ms. Thu and she replies

  1. Cảm ơn anh. Tôi vẫn khoẻ.
  2. Cảm ơn cô. Tôi không khoẻ lắm.
  3. Hôm nay tôi không bận.

‘Thank you’

  1. Không khoẻ.
  2. Không tốt.
  3. Không có chi.

A friend just help you, and you thank him

  1. Tôi cảm ơn anh nhiều
  2. Chúng tôi cảm ơn anh nhiều.
  3. Chào anh.

If you have no ideas how to get this Vietnamese exercise done and still wish to finish it, feel free to have a look at the previous lesson.


NVL106 – how are you? and are you tired? – how to say them in Vietnamese?

Hi guys, today in this article I’d like to help you say ‘hello’, ‘how are you?’ and ‘Are you tired?’ in Vietnamese. I haven’t known whether you’re excited to learn these new strange things or not; but there’s a saying in Vietnamese which is ‘Đi một ngày đàng, học một sàng khôn’, meaning ‘if you take a one-day trip, you can learn a bunch of knowledge.’ Well, I hope that you can also have fun when you take a trip to ‘Natural Vietnamese Language’ or NVL. Now off we go!

Chào anh. Hôm nay anh khoẻ không?

/Chow un. Hoam nay un kweah kongm?/

Hello. How are you today?

Chào anh = Hello (older brother)

Hôm nay = Today

Anh = You

Literally, ‘anh’ means ‘older brother’. When a Vietnamese is talking with you, to show respect, he or she will try to take you as someone in his or her family at about the same age. In this situation, if you’re a male, of course, you’re considered as his older brother. Don’t worry if you’re a female, because they’ll have some other way to address you. This is how Vietnamese try to justify for how they’re supposed to address you.

Khoẻ = Fine, strong

Không = Or not.

This word can be placed at the end of the sentence to turn it into a question. It means ‘zero’ or ‘oh’ when you discuss on numbers.

Khoẻ. Cảm ơn. Còn cô Thanh, cô khoẻ không?

/Kweah. Caam ern. Cong co Tun, co kweah kongm?/

Fine. Thanks. And you Ms Thanh, how are you?

Cảm ơn (cám ơn) = Thanks or thank you.

If you’ve ever talked to a Vietnamese, you may notice that they tend to say ‘cám ơn’ for ‘thank you’ instead of ‘cảm ơn’. The former is the spoken form, and the latter may sound a little bit formal. If you can’t tell the difference between the two tones on top of the word ‘cam’ in ‘cảm ơn’, you might find it beneficial to read the article ‘TONE MARKS’ posted earlier.

Còn = and

Cô = Ms, aunt on your father side.

It’s much easy for you to use ‘cô’ when formally addressing a female at any age.

Thanh = (female name)

It’s a female name, which means ‘green.’ Vietnamese name their children with Chinese-Vietnamese names.  Of course, each name can have some meaning as the parent’s best hope or wish they want their children to have all their lives. Therefore, Thanh’s parents may want her to as ‘green’ as the youth of the leaves and trees. Up till now, can you guess her parents’ wish for her? Yes, that’s right. They want her to be young ‘forever.’ Who doesn’t want to be young that long? LOL.

Cảm ơn anh. Tôi vẫn khoẻ. Hôm nay anh bận không?

/Caam ern un. Toy vung kweah. Hoam nay un bung kongm?/

Thank you. I’m (still) fine. Are you busy today?

Tôi = I, me

This word is rather formal, and therefore you may use it to address someone you’ve just met. If you use it to talk to your friends, it could mean you’re angry with them a bit, because you’re trying to keep it formal with them. All the same, it’s the easiest way to address yourself because you don’t have to take you as your listener’s any family member at all. You can use this to talk to quite many male or female Vietnamese at different age ranges.

Vẫn = still

Bận  = [be] busy

Adjectives in Vietnamese can be used as verbs. And verbs can function like adjectives before the nouns they modify. This may sound weird to English speakers, but as you can see language rules are arbitrary. I had the same feelings and so many different questions unanswered for so long when I started studying English about seventeen years ago. Well, this is what makes the world go round. In addition, you can have the problem of the same type if you know some Chinese or Korean. They treat adjectives the same way like the Vietnamese do. LOL.

Hôm nay tôi bận lắm.

/Hoam nay toy bung lam./

I’m so busy today.

Lắm = so

‘Lắm’ is placed after the adjective or adverb it modifies. ‘Bận’ is ‘busy,’ so ‘bận lắm’ means ‘so busy.’

Anh không mệt à?

/Un kongm meit ah?/

Aren’t you tired?

À = huh

‘À’ is put at the end of a statement or negative sentence to turn it into a question. When you use this word, you want to have the confirmation from your listener.

Tôi không mệt lắm. Cô và anh Bình bận không?

/Toy kongm meit lam. Co vah un Bin bung kongm?/

I’m not so tired. Are you and Mr. Binh busy?

‘Và’ = and

Both ‘và’ and ‘còn’ mean ‘and.’ However, when you put ‘còn’ at the beginning of a sentence it means ‘how about…?’

Chúng tôi không bận lắm.

/Choongm toy kongm bung lam/.

We’re not so busy.

‘Chúng tôi’ = we, us

There’re two ways to say ‘we’ or ‘us’ in Vietnamese, but they have different implications. ‘Chúng tôi’ refers to you and ‘the other guys over here or elsewhere’ excluding your listener(s), while ‘chúng ta’ includes  your listener or listeners.

Anh Hiếu khoẻ không?

/Un Hiew kweah kongm?/

How’s Mr. Hieu?

Hiếu = (male name)

It means ‘devotion’ to your parents

Anh ấy khoẻ lắm.

/Un ey kweah lam/

He’s doing good.

À, còn cô Thu có khoẻ không?

/Ah, cong co Too caw kweah kongm?/

Well, and how’s Ms. Thu?

‘Có’ here doesn’t mean ‘to have’ or ‘to exist.’ In this context, it can be optionally placed in front of a verb or and adjective, along with ‘không’ added to the end of a statement to turn it into a question. So you can also say ‘À, còn cô Thu khoẻ không?’

Cảm ơn anh. Cô ấy vẫn khoẻ.

/Caam ern un. Co ey vung kweah./

Thank you. She’s doing good.

Tốt lắm.

/Toakm lam/

That’s so good.

Tốt = good

In Vietnamese, some things like ‘it’s’ or ‘that’s’ are not usually added to the beginning of such a comment. Just simply speak the adjective of the comment out and some other thing like ‘lắm’ without any subject-plus-be combination ahead of it.

NVL105 – Letter-Based Transcription for Vietnamese




A         a         aa 

AI        ai         i

AY      ay        ay

Ă         ă          a       

         â          u

ÂY      ây        uy

ÂU      âu        uw


E          e          e

EO       eo        ew


Ê          ê          ei

ÊU       êu        eiw


O         o          aw    

OA      oa        wa

OE       OE       we

OI        oi         oy

Ô         ô          o       

ÔI        ôi         oay                       

Ơ         ơ          oe     

ƠI        ơi         oey

I           i           ee        

IA        ia         ea

IÊ        iê         ea

IÊU     IÊU     eaw

IU        iu         eew

U         u          oo  

UA      ua        oou

UÊ       uê        wei

UƠ      uơ        woe

UÔ      uô        oou

UÔI     uôi       oouy

UI        ui         ooy

UY      uy         wee

UYA   uya      wea

Ư         ư          ue

ƯA      ưa        eua

ƯƠ      ươ        eua

ƯƠI     ươi       euay

ƯƠU   ươu      euaw

ƯU      ưu        euw             


B          b         b                  

C         c          k

CH      ch        ch

D         d          y                     

Đ         đ          d                  

G         g          g

GI        gi         y

H         h          h

K         k          k

KH      kh        kh

L          l           l

M        m         m

N         n          n

NG      ng        ng

NH      nh        ny

P          p          p

PH       ph        f

Q         q          w

R         r           r

S          s          s

T          t           tt

TH       th         t

TR       tr          tr

V         v          v

X         x          s

Y         y          ee


NVL104 – Consonants


Most of the consonants are pronounced approximately as in the International Phonetic Alphabet, with the following clarifications:

  • Both D and GI are pronounced either [z] in the northern dialects (including Hanoi), or [j] (similar to English y) in the central and Saigon dialects. In Middle Vietnamese, D was [ð], also one of the pronunciations of Portuguese d; and GI was [ʝ], vaguely reminiscent of Italian [dʒ], spelled gi.
  • Đ is similar to a [d] sound in many languages. Vietnamese đ, however, is additionally pronounced with a glottal stop immediately preceding or simultaneous with it.
  • S is pronounced like the English s for the southern dialect and some central dialects; however, it is pronounced [ʂ] (similar to English sh) among the northern dialects. [ʂ] is the Middle Vietnamese pronunciation; it was spelled s due to the similarity with the apico-alveolar sound spelled the same way in medieval Portuguese.
  • V is pronounced [v] in the northern dialects, or [j] and [bj] in the southern dialects.
  • X is pronounced like English s (at the beginning of a word, e.g. “sing”). This sound was [ɕ] in Middle Vietnamese, resembling the Portuguese sound /ʃ/, spelled x.
  • CH is a voiceless palatal stop (IPA: [c], similar to British English t in “Tuesday”) or affricate (IPA: [tʃ], similar to English ch in “chip”). Pronounced as [t̚] in the final position.
  • KH is a voiceless velar fricative (IPA: [x]). It is similar to the German or Scottish ch, Russian x, Dutch g, Spanish j, or Arabic and Persian “خ” (kh).
  • NG is a velar nasal (IPA: [ŋ]). It is similar to both occurrences of ng in English “singing“. It is never pronounced like English n, or n plus g.
  • NH is a palatal nasal (IPA: [ɲ]), similar to Indonesian ny, Spanish ñ, Portuguese nh, Czech and Slovak ň, or French and Italian gn.
  • PH is pronounced [f], as in English “Philip” or the English “f”. It is never pronounced like English p or Hindi “फ” (ph). It is used instead of F (e-phờ) because it developed from an earlier [pʰ] (like Greek phi).
  • TH is an aspirated t (IPA: [tʰ]). It is similar to the “थ” (th) sound in Hindi or the t sound in English when pronounced at the beginning of a word. It is never pronounced like the English th in path or French/Spanish t.
  • TR is a retroflex t (in the southern regions) and pronounced like the Vietnamese ch in the southern dialects and like the Vietnamese “gi” in the northern dialects.

The digraph GH and the trigraph NGH are basically variants of g and ng used before i, in order to avoid confusion with the digraph GI. For historical reasons, gh and ngh are also used before e or ê.

(Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vietnamese_alphabet)

NVL103 – Tone Marks

Tone marks

Vietnamese is a tonal language, i.e. the meaning of each word depends on the “tone” (basically a specific tone and glottalization pattern) in which it is pronounced. There are six distinct tones in the standard Northern dialect. In the south, there is a merging of the hỏi and ngã tones, in effect leaving five basic tones. The first one (“level tone”) is not marked, and the other five are indicated by diacritics applied to the vowel part of the syllable. The tone names are chosen such that the name of each tone is spoken in the tone it identifies.




Ngang or Bằng mid level, ˧ unmarked
Huyền low falling, ˨˩ grave accent
Hỏi dipping, ˧˩˧ hook
Ngã glottalized rising, ˧˥ˀ tilde
Sắc high rising, ˧˥ acute accent
Nặng glottalized falling, ˧˨ˀ dot below
  • Unmarked vowels are pronounced with a level voice, in the middle of the speaking range.
  • The grave accent indicates that the speaker should start somewhat low and drop slightly in tone, with the voice becoming increasingly breathy.
  • The hook indicates that the speaker should start somewhat low, and fall, then rise, as in a question.
  • A tilde indicates that the speaker should start mid, break off (with a glottal stop), then start again and rise like a question in tone.
  • The acute accent indicates that the speaker should start mid and rise sharply in tone.
  • The dot signifies that the speaker should start low and fall lower in tone, with the voice becoming increasingly creaky and ending in a glottal stop.

In syllables where the vowel part consists of more than one vowel (such as diphthongs and triphthongs), the placement of the tone is still a matter of debate. Generally, there are two methodologies, an “old style” and a “new style”. While the “old style” emphasizes aesthetics by placing the tone mark as close as possible to the center of the word (by placing the tone mark on the last vowel if an ending consonant part exists and on the next-to-last vowel if the ending consonant doesn’t exist, as in hóa), the “new style” emphasizes linguistic principles and tries to apply the tone mark on the main vowel (as in hoá). In both styles, when one vowel already has a quality diacritic on it, the tone mark must be applied to it as well, regardless of where it appears in the syllable (thus thuế is acceptable while thúê is not). In the case of the ươ diphthong, the mark is placed on the ơ. The u in qu is considered part of the consonant. Currently, the new style is usually used in new documents, while some people still prefer the old style.

In lexical ordering, differences in letters are treated as primary, differences in tone markings as secondary, and differences in case as tertiary differences. Ordering according to primary and secondary differences proceeds syllable by syllable. According to this principle, a dictionary lists tuân thủ before tuần chay because the secondary difference in the first syllable takes precedence over the primary difference in the second.

The signs always go on the vowels. If there are many vowels in a word, the sign will go on the last vowel, unless that vowel ends the word. For example: tuần (meaning “week”), thưởng (meaning “reward”), tuyết (meaning “snow”), yếu (meaning “weak”), etc.


As a result of influence from the Chinese writing system, each syllable in Vietnamese is written separately as if it were a word. In the past, syllables in multisyllabic words were concatenated with hyphens, but this practice had died out, and hyphenation is now reserved for foreign borrowings. A written syllable consists of at most three parts, in the following order from left to right:

  1. An optional beginning consonant part
  2. A required vowel syllable nucleus and the tone mark, if needed, applied above or below it
  3. An optional ending consonant part, can only be one of the following: c, ch, m, n, ng, nh, p, t, or nothing.

(Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vietnamese_alphabet)

NVL102 – Vowels



The correspondence between the orthography and pronunciation is somewhat complicated. In some cases, the same letter may represent several different sounds, and different letters may represent the same sound. This may be because the orthography was designed centuries ago and the spoken language has changed, or because the inventors were trying to spell the sounds of several dialects at once.

The letters y and i are mostly equivalent, and there is no rule that says when to use one or the other, except in diphthongs like ay and uy (i.e. tay (hand) is read /tɐi/ while tai (ear) is read /taːi/). There have been attempts since the early 20th century to standardize the orthography by replacing all the vowel uses of y with i, the latest being a decision from the Vietnamese Ministry of Education in 1984. These efforts seem to have had limited effect, in part because some people bristled at the thought of names such as Nguyễn becoming Nguiễn and Thúy (a common female name) becoming Thúi (stinky), even though the standardization does not apply to diphthongs and triphthongs and allowed exceptions to proper names. Currently, the spelling that uses i exclusively is found only in scientific publications and textbooks. Most people and the popular media continue to use the spelling that they are most accustomed to.






 /aː/, /æ/ in some dialects, /ɐ/ before “u” and “y“, /ə/ in “ia” /iə/


 /ɔ/, /ɐw/ before “ng” and “c“; /w/




 /o/, /ɜw/ before “ng” and “c” except “uông” and “uôc








 /u/, /w/


 /e/, /ə/ after iê




 /i/ before “a” and “ê


 /i/ before “ê



The table below matches Vietnamese vowels (written in the IPA) and their respective orthographic symbols used in the writing system.






i, y























The vowel /i/ is:

  • usually written i: /si/ = (A suffix indicating profession, similar to the English suffix -er).
  • sometimes written y after h, k, l, m, s, t, v: /mi/ = Mỹ‘America’.
    • It is always written y when:
  1. preceded by an orthographic vowel: /xuiən/ = khuyên ‘to advise’;
  2. at the beginning of a word derived from Chinese (written as i otherwise): /iəw/ = yêu ‘to love’.

Note that i and y are also used to write /i/.

Diphthongs and triphthongs





















ây, ê in ‹ênh› /əjŋ/ and ‹êch› /əjk/


âu, ô in ‹ông› /əwŋ/ and ‹ôc› /əwk/






ay, a in ‹anh› /ɐjŋ/ and ‹ach› /ɐjk/


au, o in ‹onɡ› /ɐwŋ/ and ‹oc› /ɐwk/



/ɨw/ northern usually /iw/



ia, ya, iê, yê












iêu, yêu








The diphthong /iə/ is written:

  1. ia in open syllables: /miə/ = mía ‘sugar cane’ (note: open syllables end with a vowel; closed syllables end with a consonant);
  2. before a consonant: /miəŋ/ = miếng ‘piece’;

The i changes to y at the beginning of words or after an orthographic vowel:

  • ya: /xuiə/ = khuya ‘late at night’
  • : /xuiən/ = khuyên ‘to advise’; /iən/ = yên ‘calm’.

The diphthong /uə/ and /uo/ is written:

  1. ua in open syllables: /muə/ = mua ‘to buy’;
  2. before a consonant: /muon/ = muôn ‘ten thousand’.

The diphthong /ɨə/ and /ɨɜː/ is written:

  1. ưa in open syllables: /mɨə/ = mưa ‘to rain’;
  2. ươ before consonants: /mɨəːŋ/ = mương ‘irrigation canal’.

(Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vietnamese_alphabet)

NVL101 – Alphabet



There’re four columns in the chart. The first column lists the capitalized letters. The second the lower ones. The third describes the letters’ names in English pronunciation. And the last column shows the examples where the letters and their pronunciations can be found.

You may notice that in the third column, some letters have another secondary names, which are used to teach kids how to read the alphabet and show how the letters sound like in reality. You’d better not use this second name of the letter to read the abbreviations. For instance, HTV, which is short for Hochiminh City Television, is pronunced /hack tay vay/ instead of /huh tuh vuh/, which might sound very funny and childish. They’re just good for the little children.

And here you go with the Vietnamese Alphabet.


A         a          ah                                Ah, cAfé,

Ă         ă          ah                                Under, fUnd

         â          uh                               camerA

B          b          bay / buh                   Bay, Boy,

C         c          say / suh                    esCape, sCotland, sCout

D         d          yay / ya                      Yeah, Yes, Yummy

Đ         đ          day / duh                   Day, Develop,

E          e          air (with silent “r”)   dEfinite, Effort, vEry

Ê          ê          ay                                cafE, stAY

G         g          gay / guh                   Good, Game

H         h          hack / huh                  Hello, Home

I           i           ee                                Important,

K         k          cah                              sKi, sKite

L          l           e luh / luh                  Love, calcuLate

M        m         em muh / muh          My, laMb

N         n          en nuh / nuh              No, teN

O         o          aw                               lAW, mOral, lOyal

Ô         ô          o                                  Oh, sO,

Ơ         ơ          uh                               Uh, camerA

P          p          pay / puh                   sPin, sPouse

Q         q          wee                             We, Well

R         r           air ruh / ruh               Random, Roller

S          s          et suh / suh                See, Seventy-Six

T          t           tay / tuh                     sTay, sTop, sTep

U         u          oo                                yOU, tOO

Ư         ư          ugh                             Ugh (no English equivalent sound. Practice needed)

V         v          vay / vuh                   Victory, Velcro

X         x          it / it suh                    SuSan,

Y         y          ee yi                            skI, shE, wE

“To learn a language, it’s not enough to know so many words. They must be connected according to the particular laws of the particular language.” – Jesperson