Vietnamese: Lesson 2

Vietnamese has two different O sounds: the o in the word saigon and the oh sound in Ho Chi Minh.

You already know the O in saigon, which is written with the normal letter o, and is pronounced like in top. It is used in the word to meaning big.

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But the O in Ho Chi Minh is written as an O with a hat, like this:

Ô ô

Hô Chi Minh

Unfortunately, in Vietnamese, the ô in Hô Chi Minh is actually halfway between the sound in "oh no" and the sound "or". It is an orh nor sound. If you have trouble saying it halfway between "oh" and "or", just choose one and say it that way. It sounds more like an "or" at the end of a syllable, and more like an "oh" in the middle. But it never, ever sounds like the o in top.

If you are an American, you may have trouble distinguishing these two sounds, since America merged half a dozen of English’s different vowel sounds into a single vowel sound. Other English speaking countries don’t have that problem.

ÔôĐđ

aunt is (pronounced core, but a bit like the prefix co-)

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Aunt is also used to mean "miss".

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Aunt also means "you" when talking to a young or middle-aged woman.

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grandfather is ông.

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Grandfather also means "Mr."

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Grandfather also means "you" when talking to a man.

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Some Vietnamese words begin with kh. There are two ways you can choose to pronounce kh. You can either say it like a k sound followed by a h sound, or you can choose to say it like the german/arabic/scottish/dutch ch sound. Both ways are correct, so just choose whichever is easier for you.

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no, not, don’t and didn’t are không

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To make any sentence a question, you just put no on the end. To ask "Is it far?", you say "It is far, no?". To ask "Are you watching a film?" you say "you are watching a film, no?"

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The normal way to answer "yes", is to just say the adjective or the verb.

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Do you remember the other kind of question?

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Ai normally means who. But if you use it in a yes/no question, then it means "anybody".

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If you use who in a negative statement, it means nobody or not anybody.

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If someone calls you grandfather, you can answer by calling yourself grandfather instead of "I".

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I estimate 95% of people in Vietnam go everywhere by motorbike.

Motorbike is shortened to mô tô in Vietnamese, but with the word for vehicle in front of it.

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People normally leave out the word "by" when they say "go by motorbike".

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ôi sounds like ô followed by i. ô i, ôi.

Vietnamese does have one or two real pronouns.

I or me is tôi. Like "I am a toy". tôi

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Tôi is a little bit formal. You can’t use tôi with your boyfriend or girlfriend or family, or they will get angry. They will be insulted that you didn’t call yourself "sister" or "brother" or "child".

If you are talking to your girlfriend, you are expected to call yourself "older brother". How would you say to your girlfriend "I am going out"?

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younger sibling is em. It’s the word me backwards.

How would you say to your younger brother or sister, "I see you"?

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How would you say to your older brother, "I see you"?

?Em xem anh.

When a woman talks to her boyfriend, she will call herself "em" and her boyfriend "anh", and vice-versa.

But if you were talking to a woman you don’t know, what do you think you would say?

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Be careful about calling women "em", even if they are younger. It sounds like you are hitting on them.

to go past is qua.

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How would you say to an older man "You went past me."?

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Yesterday is the day that past, hôm qua.

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Tôi ca can mean "I sing", "I sang", "I am singing", or "I will sing". If you want to make it clear that you are right now in the process of singing, you need to add the Vietnamese word "doing".

doing is đang. Nearly the same as in English. doing, đang

So "I am singing" would be "I am doing singing."

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