WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO LEARN SPOKEN VIETNAMESE?

Before you start, here are a few details about the Vietnamese language:

  • Vietnamese is among the easiest languages to learn in the 4th category (out of 5), along with most other European languages, which will cost you about 11 months to be successful in (according to Language Difficulty Ranking).
  • The Vietnamese have a long tradition of being France and a territory of China. His language, therefore, was somewhat built on the basis of French and Chinese. This contributes to the assumption that words and alphabets from these languages will be adopted. 
  • Since 1954, the Vietnamese language has been recognised as an official language in the world.

When it comes to word/letter pronunciation, dialect is an important element. Within Vietnam, there are around three major accents/dialects attributable to various regions (based on my own experience and cultural understanding as a native of Vietnam):

1. Accent of Northern (strong word pressure, clear) 

2. Southern accent (soft, less pressure on words and “cute”) 

3. The accent of Central Vietnam

(For Southern or Northern people, slightly different words and hard-to-understand; lovely dialect tone, always sounds the most amazing in our cultural songs. This keyword can be used to check for any if interested: Dân ca Trung Bo – the Centre’s folk song)

There are also three remarkable and widely-recognized accents within three major dialects, from: Hanoi City (North), Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City (South), Hue City (South) (Central).

pasted image 0
The numerous regions and cities in Vietnam 

Quickly, here’s a short YouTube video I found online showing all three dialects (in order, Southern, Northern and Central) saying the same Vietnamese word, “Xin chào (Hello), tôi là Huy (I’m Huy), rất vui được làm quen với các bạn (glad to meet you guys),” in which the guy already says that Central is the hardest accent to understand.

The following keywords can also be used to scan for videos of the three remarkable Vietnamese accents: Giọng người Hà Nội (Hanoi dialect), Giọng miền Nam/Giọng người Sài Gòn (Saigon/Southern dialect), Tiếng Huế (Hue dialect).

Other dialects that are significantly different to consider listening to are from: Thanh Hoa Province (North), Thai Binh Province (North), Can Tho City (South), Ha Tinh Province (Central). Excellent example of Ha Tinh dialect:

A famous song from Hà Tĩnh Province (this is a song of missing hometown and always looking forward to come back)

Let’s start now with the fundamentals of the Vietnamese language:

IN SUMMARY: 

-The Vietnamese have diacritics equivalent to the French.

To begin learning Vietnamese, the first step is to learn the alphabet. In sum, 29 letters exist. (It should not be difficult because it is very similar to the recognized worldwide English alphabet)

The Vietnamese alphabet does not have F, J, W, Z similar to the English alphabet. Instead, there are several different ways to bring two letters together to have the same pronunciations as those “missing letters.” For instance, Ph is similar to F, Gi is similar to J, but later on we will talk about that.

Some letters are complex, such as A, O, D, which makes it possible to have 6 more letters compared to the English alphabet (23 in total).

pasted image 0 (1)

Alphabet from Vietnam 

In the Vietnamese alphabet, the letters A,D,E,O,U are identical to French letters. They both have diacritics over the letters, or points above them.

pasted image 0 (2)

Lettres in French with diacritics 

Written forms of special letters in diacritics A, D, E, O, U are given here: 

Class 1: A  to  

2nd Group: D Đ 

Class 3: The E Ê 

Community 4: O Ô Ơ

Group 5: U Ư

The pronunciation of each letter in a particular category is slightly different. E.g. /a/ /a:/ (A and Á), /ε/ /e/ (E and Ê)…

The pronunciation of Vietnamese letters and the pronunciation of letters from South American nations (Mexican, Portuguese,…) are identical. In Vietnamese and Portuguese, for example, ‘A’ is pronounced /a/; in English, it is pronounced /ei/.

pasted image 0 (3)

Vietnamese letters and their pronunciations of diacritics 

An example of a YouTube video teaching how to pronounce letters from Vietnam. You can also find more helpful and detailed lessons online in SVFF.