When navigating a foreign country and culture, it’s always useful to have some phrases ready in the native language. These simple bits of Vietnamese should come in handy as travelers explore and interact with the locals. Before coming to essential phrases you need to know, you should learn six tones in Vietnamese
a – flat, mid level
à – starts low then dips and rises
ả – starts above mid level, dips slightly then rises sharply
ã – starts higher than ả, dips slightly then rises sharply
á – starts high and rises sharply
ạ – starts low, falls and then stops
Vietnamese 101: The Basics
Remember to always be polite when asking for something. Vietnamese people are naturally quiet and polite so raising your voice or speaking in a boisterous tone might turn them away. Remember, a smile is your biggest asset. Use it when interacting with people!
Yes – Vâng (north), dạ (south)
No – Không
Thank you – Xin Cảm ơn (sin kam un)
I’m sorry – Xin lỗi
Can you help me? – Bạn có thể giúp tôi được không? (ban zoop thoy duc khom?)
No problem/you’re welcome – Không có gì
Do you speak English? – Bạn có nói được tiếng Anh không?
Where’s the… toilet? – Nhà vệ sinh ở đâu
Basic Greetings in Vietnamese
Master these words and you will surely be able to get a grin from any local. Vietnamese people love talking to foreigners and you will find them to be very welcoming, despite what other people say
Hello – Xin chào
Goodbye – Tạm biệt
How are you? – Bạn có khỏe không?
What’s your name? – Bạn tên gì (ban tane zee)
My name is… – Tôi là (thoy la…)
Basic Vietnamese for Eating and Ordering Food
Alongside with Thai food, Vietnam is one of the highlights of any culinary street food experience in Southeast Asia. From steamy hot bowls of Pho to delightful rolls of fresh spring rolls. The food in Vietnam should be high up on your list and is definitely worth exploring.
I’d like to drink – Tôi muốn uống (thoy moowan oowanh)
Beer – Bia
Coffee – Cà phê (cah feh)
Hot Coffee with milk – Cà phê sữa nóng (cah feh sua nom)
Hot black coffee – Cà phê nóng (cah feh nom)
Cold – Lạnh (lang)
Tea – Trà (chah)
I’d like to eat – Tôi muốn ăn (thoy moowan un)
Nothing too spicy, please – Làm ơn đồ ăn không quá cay
I’m vegetarian – Tôi ăn chay
Hot (spicy) – Cay
Spice – Đồ gia vị
Noodles – Mì/ bún/ phở
Bread – Bánh Mì
Beef – Bò
Chicken – Gà
Fish – Cá
Basic Vietnamese for Shopping
How much is it? – Bao nhiêu tiền?
It is too expensive – Mắc quá (mahk qwa)
Do you have something cheaper? – Bạn có cái nào rẻ hơn không?
Basic Vietnamese for Directions
Go – Đi (dee)
Come – Đến (den)
Where – Ở đâu (o dau)
Right – Bên phải (ben fai)
Left – Bên trái (ben trai)
Turn – Rẽ (re) (north), Quẹo (weo, south)
Straight ahead – Phía trước (fia truc)
Stop here – Ngừng ở đây (north), Dừng lại đây (south)
Fast – Nhanh
Bus – Xe buyt (seh bwit)
Where is the nearest internet shop? – Tiệm internet ở đâu (Team Internet oh dou)
Basic Vietnamese to Impress and Gain Street Cred
(One to ten) – Một, hai, ba, Bốn, năm, sáu, Bảy, tám, chín, mừơi
Oh my god/Oh sh*t! – Trời ơi – (pronounced as choy oi)
Hey, friend – Này!, Ê!
I’m hungry/ thirsty – Tôi đói / khát
Can I have a beer please? – Cho tôi xin một ly bia được không
I like you – Tôi thích em
Would you marry me? – Em hãy cưới anh nhé? (to be followed by…)
I’m just kidding – Tôi chỉ đùa thôi
If you’re REALLY serious about learning Vietnamese, here are a few tips:
Practice Makes Perfect – Either you practice with local friends or you practice with people online, there is no better way than to learn a language than by interacting with native speakers. Listen to their diction and pronunciation and don’t be afraid to ask them questions. Most of them would be more than happy that you are taking the time to actually learn their language.
Get a teacher or enrol yourself in a program – Vietnamese isn’t as easy as English as certain words can look exactly alike but mean two different things depending on how it is pronounced. There are loads of online courses which offer you basic lessons, walking you through the proper pronunciation and grammatical lessons while still being very affordable.
Don’t be Afraid to look like a fool – Learning a language is supposed to be a way for you to speak and understand more about another culture so don’t be too self conscious. Chances are, they will laugh with you and not at you!