When visiting Vietnam, learning the local Vietnamese lingo is essential to elevating your stay and understanding the culture. However, most areas with a lot of tourists feature an abundance of English speakers, so getting by is easy. That being said, there are times when speaking the language is crucial, so learning the most commonly used phrases for tourists is recommended
Popular Vietnamese Phrases for Tourists
From the basic greetings, such as hello, goodbye, thank you and you’re welcome, to counting from zero to a hundred, there are certain things you should learn. Vietnam uses some words multiple times, depending on context. They also have several tone marks over the letters, indicating how to pronounce them.
Guide to Learning the Vietnamese Language
The Vietnamese language originated in Vietnam and is considered to be an Austroasiatic and analytic language, with over 90 million speakers all around the globe. While the language used to be more similar to other South East Asia dialects, a large portion of the words has Chinese and French roots.
As China and France gained power within the country, terms from the languages were combined with the Vietnamese language. For example, “dam” meaning “woman” in Vietnamese which comes from the French word “madame”, and “train station” which is “ga” comes from the term “gare” in French.
Variation in Language
There are three main dialects of the language in Vietnam: North, Central, and South. Their main differences are not just in sound, but vocab and structure, with the Central tongue being the most different from the other dialects. To be even more specific, the central dialects can be divided into three areas to include the northern central, mid-central, and southern-central regions.
Even though the north and south regions have their own accents and ways of pronouncing words, there are many southerners in the north and vice versa. The most standard version of Vietnamese is the version learned and spoken in Hanoi. In Vietnamese communities abroad, this is the accent that they use the most, as well as what is taught in language programs.
An example of how one word can vary across the country is:
- North: đâu
- Central: mô
- South: đâu
- North: bát
- Central: đọi
- South: chén
It can be difficult to learn Vietnamese because of its six tones that command the meaning of a word. English speakers might not be familiar with this kind of language, but those who know Chinese will have a lot easier time especially with some of the vocabulary being similar.
Another aspect of Vietnamese that can make it easier than other languages is the fact that it’s analytical, meaning there are no conjugations, plurals, multiple verb endings, or word “genders” to worry about.
There are 11 vowels and 18 consonants in the Vietnamese language. The alphabet used is identical to the ISO basic Latin one, where the letters f, j, w, and z aren’t used except to differentiate the meanings and tones from one dialect to another or include loan words.
There are six unique tones in the Vietnamese language that are marked with distinguishing accents. Four tones are identified with markings above the vowels, while another is noted with a marking underneath them.
The last tone is the unmarked vowels without any modifications. Knowing each one’s type and function can help you correctly write and pronounce words.
- Á É Í Ó Ú Ý
- á é í ó ú ý
The acute tone has a forward slash above the vowels, indicating a high-rising pitch. The marking is placed more on the right side of each letter, and if combined with other accents, must be clearly defined.
- À È Ì Ò Ù Ỳ
- à è ì ò ù ỳ
A grave accent is a backward slash over the vowels, dictating a low pitch. It leans towards the left side of the letter without falling off, and like acute, must be separated from any other accents when combined.
- Ả Ẻ Ỉ Ỏ Ủ Ỷ
- ả ẻ ỉ ỏ ủ ỷ
This accent resembles a question mark without the dot below and signifies a mid-low dropping pitch.
- Ã Ẽ Ĩ Õ Ũ Ỹ
- ã ẽ ĩ õ ũ ỹ
A tilde denotes a high-rising pitch and looks like a letter ‘S’ on its side above the vowels.
- Ạ Ẹ Ị Ọ Ụ Ỵ
- ạ ẹ ị ọ ụ ỵ
The underdot marking is a dot placed beneath the vowels and signifies a low dropping pitch.
The unmarked vowels have no particular accent and have sounds varying from low to high ranges.
Other Languages Spoken in Vietnam
Vietnamese is the national and official language of Vietnam, making it commonly spoken among residents. A second favored language is English, followed by French and Chinese. Some of the minor languages also spoken include Muong, Cham, and Khmer. There are also some native tribes still in the wilderness of Vietnam that speak their own languages and dialects.
Vietnamese for Tourists
Even though English is widely spoken in Vietnam, many locals including those who live in rural areas don’t use it on a frequent basis, if ever. Occasionally, Because of that, it can be incredibly useful to know a few phrases in the native language to get you by wherever you are in the country.
Top Phrases for Common Situations
Having a handful of phrases to use in any given instance can make things a lot easier for you and whoever you are trying to communicate with. Not only will you accomplish what you’re trying to do or get faster, but it might also help you to form some friendships with locals!
Bars – Drinking is a social activity that people enjoy in most countries, so knowing how to say “cheers” and order a round of drinks for your group is essential.
Restaurants – Dining out is a big part of the overall Vietnamese experience, and being able to have basic communication skills with your waiter is going to help you get the meals you like the most.
Ordering Street Food – When walking around the street markets, you’ll notice how busy and loud it can get among the crowds. Knowing a few words to get by in a conversation with vendors will assist you in being able to talk about and purchase street food with more ease.
Bargaining – Everyone wants the best deal, so being able to bargain is not only advantageous while shopping on the markets, but it’s expected. Especially at the street markets and vendors, bargaining is typically practiced.
Directions – It can get confusing to walk through an unfamiliar city where you don’t speak the native language. Knowing how to ask for basic directions can help point you on the right path before you get too turned around.
Basic Questions – Being able to ask basic questions like, “Where is the nearest bathroom?” or “Can you recommend a restaurant?” might be
It would be difficult not to learn a few words of Vietnamese traveling through the country, so hopefully this guide has helped you to get a better understanding of the overall language.