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Essential Vietnamese Words And Phrases - Guide for First-time travellers

Lê Ngọc Minh Châu - January 15, 2019

Astonishingly enchanting and utterly exotic, tourists around the world mark Vietnam on their map as a bucket-list destination. This wonderful country captivates promising, gorgeous natural beauty, vibrant culture, and tasteful cuisine.

Although English has become a common medium of communication in Vietnam’s big cities, it’d still be a little bit difficult to get by without knowing a few Vietnamese words. Having some common words and phrases in hand will totally help you avoid misunderstandings and frustrations, thereby you will get a more fascinating insight into Vietnamese culture.

We have a list providing you the most necessary words and phrases to help you say Hello to locals, how to order food in Vietnamese restaurants, how to ask directions and everything in between. Just a few words but you can understand Vietnamese lives; besides, proper preparation makes your journey great!

Essential Vietnamese Words And Phrases - Guide for First-time travellers

Basic Vietnamese words make you more confident and easier to communicate with the locals

A Look into Vietnamese Language History

Archaeologists found a vestige of an ancient civilization (before 1000 B.C) to prove that Vietnamese people have our own language.

Unfortunately, since the 1st century, due to Han invasion, their administration exerted Han characters to be an official language. After Ngo Quyen gained independence in 938, we still use Han characters.

Until the 13th century, Vietnamese innovated our own written language (Nom) to declare our cultural identity.

In the 17th century, when missionaries arrived in the country, the Vietnamese language has the most important change: transformation into Romanized form, Quoc Ngu. It has been used until now,  with 6 different tones created by diacritics.

Essential Vietnamese Words And Phrases - Guide for First-time travellers

In some situation, some Vietnamese will help you to avoid scams and get help from the locals 

1. Daily conversation

Vietnamese people are friendly and easy-going, especially college students. If you wanna start a conversation with locals, don’t be shy to take a chance. You are encouraged to have a smile too.

Chances are, you will meet some new fun friends here. To make your conversation more enjoyable, we have the most common phrases and sentences you may encounter in your trip.

Essential Vietnamese Words And Phrases - Guide for First-time travellers

 

2. Introduction and Greeting

Essential Vietnamese Words And Phrases - Guide for First-time travellers

 

 

3. Directions and Travelling

Essential Vietnamese Words And Phrases - Guide for First-time travellers

 

Big cities like Hanoi and Saigon, streets are mazy. Taxi services are certainly helpful for first-time travelers to get around. Just a small issue here is that most drivers know only a little bit of English. That’s why learning some Vietnamese vocab is never redundant, to save your time and avoid misunderstanding between you guys. Otherwise, it reduces your probability of getting lost, ensure your safety and many other advantages.

 

However, the best solutions are always to bring a map and write down the address you’re going to on a small piece of paper.

>>> Check out Hanoi Itinerary 2019 by AZ Local Trip

4. Shopping 

English

Pronunciation

Vietnamese

“Pho” noodle

fuh

pho

Bread

banh mee

bánh mì

Iced Coffee with Milk

cafe sure da

cà phê sữa đá

Roll

ghoi kwoon

gỏi cuốn

Spring Roll

cha yaw

chả giò

Flea market bargain hunters and shopaholics look for shopping paradise? If so, you shouldn’t miss out Vietnam on your traveling map, where you find everything like 70% sales.

You’ll be into a wide variety of commodities and insanely affordable prices. Just a few Vietnamese words, your shopping sprees will be smooth and enjoyable.

5. Restaurants and Ordering Food

Essential Vietnamese Words And Phrases - Guide for First-time travellers

Essential Vietnamese Words And Phrases - Guide for First-time travellers

Essential Vietnamese Words And Phrases - Guide for First-time travellers

Vietnamese cuisine is undeniably one of the most country’s highlights. Super wallet-friendly and unimaginably flavorful, a food adventure deserves the top spot on your to-do list.

Therefore, practice a few common phrases so you won’t find yourself in awkward situations when eating out

6. Number, Date And Time

It’s quite useful to know how to pronounce numbers, dates and times in Vietnamese as they are often used in everyday conversation.

Numbers

Essential Vietnamese Words And Phrases - Guide for First-time travellers

Once you figure out the rules, Vietnamese numbers are quite easy to follow. Quite similar to English, if you master how to count from one to ten, the rest is totally on your grasp.

Days of The Week

English

Pronunciation

Vietnamese

Sunday

chu nhat

chủ nhật

Monday

tuuh hi

thứ hai

Tuesday

tuuh bar

thứ ba

Wednesday

tuuh thu

thứ tư

Thursday

tuuh nahm

thứ năm

Friday

tuuh saow

thứ sáu

Saturday

tuuh bayh

thứ bảy

This is even easier. The days are named after numbers in ascending order starting from number 2 (hai) to 7 (bay). Except for Sunday though.

Time

Regularly Used Terms

Some extra vocab to surprise your Vietnamese friends

7. Tips For Speaking Vietnamese

Notice your Tone

Vietnamese is actually a highly tonal, modulated language. Same words but with different vocal tone (higher or lower) will drastically change the attitude towards listeners. So be cautious or else you might say something offensive to locals.

Where to learn Vietnamese?

Essential Vietnamese Words And Phrases - Guide for First-time travellers

If you really wanna study Vietnamese, attending a language class is advisory. It’s recommended to start learning Vietnamese a year prior to your trip.

If you don’t find it that necessary, online courses are more suitable for you. Your learning process can be much economical and time-saving through appropriate grammar and pronunciation lessons

Online apps are great alternative choices. Designating for each purpose: work, travel and basic conversations…, your time to study functional words and sentences will be much easier.

Being educated and well-prepared is a crucial part of enjoying an abroad trip so learn as much as possible before heading out.

Body language

Don’t underestimate the power of body language – it works in many situations! For example, if you can’t pronounce numbers, just use your fingers.

Essential Vietnamese Words And Phrases - Guide for First-time travellers

Be patient

And again trust me, Vietnamese people are extremely amiable and willing to overcome any language barrier to give you the most enjoyable experience while you’re in their country.

Be confident

You may know a few basic words, don’t be shy to say out the words you have learned. You can practice with college students. They are kind and open-minded, always voluntarily help if you wanna study the Vietnamese language.