Vietnamese is a language that differs a lot from most languages. It does not have the regular set of personal pronouns but we will call it like that for you to understand what we are referring to. It is very important to know how to address people in a respectful manner. That means personal pronouns change dependent on the age, gender and level of respect you have towards the other person. It is very common to refer to one another in familiar terms such as "big brother" or "uncle". For example, if you talk to someone that is about your generation but a bit older than you, you refer to them as "anh" for "older brother" and "chị" for "older sister". If the other person is a lot older than you, i.e. your parents' generation but younger than your parents, you call them "chú" for "younger uncle" and "co" for "younger aunt".
In the lessons before, we used 'tôi' and 'bạn' to refer to 'I' and 'you'. These expressions are not commonly used and sound rather awkward as the relationship is not clear in the conversation. For foreigners however, it is an acceptable way to address each other though.
How to address one another in a very friendly way:
|I||tớ||sweet form of addressing oneself; common between friends in school; more common between girl friends|
|mình||slightly more humble and honest form of addressing to oneself|
|you||cậu||goes together with tớ/mình|
How to address one another in a very impolite manner:
|I||tao||during a fight; very rude; when you look down on someone; 'bad parents' would use this word to talk to their children; also common between friends; more common between guy friends than girl friends|
|you||mày||goes together with tao|
How to address one another in a more respectful way:
|adults use it (in-laws, neighbours, strangers, colleauges), when real age is not known or inconvenient to ask about the age|
|respectful way to address another adult; anh for male persons and chị for female; used in official settings (letters, government forms)|
|bạn||very friendly, only used persons your own age or younger since the literal meaing is 'friend'|
This is a table with the most common personal pronouns in the Vietnamese language. You have to note here that the "I" and "you" are interchangeable. That means if you talk to your father, you use "con" for "I" and "bố" for "you". Your father however, uses "bố" for "I" and "con" for "you".
|I||Literal translation||You||Literal translation||When|
|con||child||bố||father||only with your own father|
|con||child||mẹ||mother||only with your own mother|
|em||younger sister/brother||anh||older brother||for your older brothers, older cousins and any male person that is older than you but in the same generation|
|chị||older sister||for your older sisters/cousins and any female person that is older than you but in the same generation|
|anh/chị||older sibling||em||younger sibling||for younger siblings and anyone that is younger than you but still the same generation|
|bố,mẹ, bà, etc.||biological father, mother, grandmother, etc.||con||biological child or grandchild||for a young child that is at least one generation younger than yours|
|ông, bà, bác, chú, etc.||grandfather, - mother, uncle/aunt||cháu||grandchild, niece/ nephew, cousin of junior generations||for a young child; a person at least one generation younger|
|middle aged man|
for the paternal grandfather
for the maternal grandfather
|middle aged woman|
for the paternal grandmother
for the maternal grandmother
|cháu/con||grandchild||ông, bà||middle aged man and woman||for someone that is signigicantly older than you, about two generations older; same generation like your grandparents|
|cháu||niece/nephew||cô||father's younger sister||for those aunts that are younger than your father and women the same generation like your parents but younger than them|
|cháu||niece/nephew||chú||father's younger brother||for those uncles that are younger than your father and men the same generation as your parents but younger than them|
|cháu||niece/nephew||thím||aunt-in-law||for chú's wife|
|cháu||niece/nephew||bác||parent's older sibling||any sibling that is older than your parents or random person that is older but still the same generation|
|cháu||niece/nephew||dì||mother's younger sister; stepmother|
|cháu||niece/nephew||cậu||mother's younger brother|
|cháu||niece/nephew||mợ||aunt-in-law||for cậu's wife|
|cháu||niece/nephew||dượng||uncle-in-law, stepfather||for cô's and dì's husband|
|cháu||great-grandchild||cụ/cố||very old person||for a person that is one generation older than your grandparents = great-grandparents|
|cháu||great-great-grandchild||sơ||very very old person||for your great-great-grandparents|
Although this all might look intimidating and rather difficult, don't let this stop you from learning Vietnamese. Trust me when I say that even Vietnamese natives struggle with this, especially children. That is due to the large families and your "uncle" might be even younger than you since the youngest and oldest sibling could be many years apart.
An's Bulgarian has tremendously improved since she gave it go a year and a half ago. Of course, It goes without saying that I am pleased to work with such an enthusiastic learner who is living proof that, through hard work and perseverance, everyone can succeed in their language goals. An, you are now an independant user of the language who is able to successfully lead real-live conversations. Pat yourself on the back.
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Hi everybody, my name is Tra My, I have been living in Barcelona for 5 years. I speak Spanish, English, Vietnamese, a little Portuguese and... Chinese. I have 4-year experience of teaching Vietnamese language to foreigners. However, I think language is not enough. If you would like to travel, study, work, live in Vietnam, or just look for a Vietnamese partner, you need to know more about Vietnamese culture. Additionally, I was working as a lawyer in Vietnam, so I can advise you on how to start a business in Vietnam and obtain residency permits. We will talk together about it in my classes. I will accompany you from knowing nothing about Vietnam until you can negotiate the price with the Vietnamese people :) I look forward to seeing you in my classes! Read more
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