How to pronounce Vietnamese
Vietnamese pronunciation guide
The most difficult part of learning Vietnamese is definitely the proper pronunciation. This differs greatly to many Western languages and makes it very hard for most people to get the right tone. If you pronounce a word in the wrong way, it might have a totally different meaning.
The Vietnamese language has six different tones:
|level||ngang (không dấu)||none||ma (ghost)|
|sharp rising||dấu sắc||́||má (mother)|
|hanging||dấu huyền||̀||mà (where/which)|
|falling rising, asking||dấu hỏi||̉||mả (grave)|
|high rising, tumbling||dấu ngã||̃||mã (horse)|
|heavy||dấu nặng||̣||mạ (rice seeding)|
Vietnamese vowel pronunciation: diphthongs and trithongs
In the table below you can find all the vowel combinations.
|Vowel combination||Phonetic sound|
- The vowel i is represented mostly by the letter i. However, in some cases it is written with the letter y:
- when i is the only sound that forms a syllable: y (medicine), ý (idea/thought);
- the diphthong iê is written with the letters yê, when there is no preceeding consonant and it ends with an additional letter: yêu, yến, yểm
- some words formed by an intitial consonant and the vowel i without a final letter, can both be written with an y or an i: hi vọng / hy vọng, kí / ký, lí / lý
Vietnamese consonant pronunciations: consonant combinations
In this table we present to you all the consonant combinations.
|Consonant combination||Phonetic sound||Examples and how it sounds like|
|ch||[c]||cho as in chip|
|gi||[z]||giá as in zoo|
|gh||[g]||ghen as in goal|
|kh||[x]||khói as in loch|
|ng||[ŋ]||ngồi as in sing|
|ngh||[ŋ]||nghe as in wing|
|nh||[ɲ]||nhanh as in canyon|
|ph||[f]||phở as in fine|
|qu||[kw]||quen as in queen|
|th||[th]||thích as is top|
|tr||[ʈʂ]||trơn as in church|
- The consonant k is normally represented by the letter c, e.g. cư, cơ, ca.
- Except before vowels i, ê, e, the letter k is written, for instance: ký, kê, kẻ.
- The consonant ng is represented by the combination of two consonants ng: ngư, ngơ, nga.
- Except before the vowels i, ê, e, the third consontant h is added, thus ngh is written: nghỉ, nghề, nghe.
- The consonant g is represented by the letter g: ga, gờ.
- Except before the vowels i, ê, e, it becomes gh: ghì, ghê, ghé.
The right intonation of the words is essential to understanding and communicating in Vietnamese. Studying all the basics of pronunciations will help you get around and the locals will understand you better.
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