(BEGODI) – Vietnamese is an incredibly intimidating language to learn for most speakers. Although you will be able to get by during your travels with English, Google and great miming skills, it is always helpful to know some words of your destination language. Here is a mini crash course into the basic Vietnamese phrases that will be useful for your travels.
The level of English in Vietnam is quite low. Though you will come across locals with a basic or even high proficiency in English, this will not be the norm. Most of the street vendors and general passersby that you may want to interact with will only be comfortable in Vietnamese. As a visitor in their country, it is important for you to make some effort to communicate, even if the words are basic and slightly butchered. Your willingness to try and connect will be highly appreciated by locals, and it will make your experience that much richer.
Hello: xin chào (sin chow)
Goodbye: tạm biệt (dam bee it)
How are you: bạn khoẻ không (ban khweh khong)
Fine, thank you: tôi khỏe, cám ơn (doy khweh, kam earn)
See you again: hen gặp lại (hen gap lai)
These are phrases that you will probably hear a lot, and will be easier to produce once you listen to the locals. They are great as a starting point as you can use them on a daily basis to add rapport with those you interact with.
Please: làm ơn (lam earn)
Thank you: cám ơn (gam earn)
Excuse me/sorry: xin lỗi (sin lõ-ee)
Yes: vâng/dạ (vang)/(za)
No: không (khong)
I don’t understand: tôi không hiểu (doy khong hie-ou)
Also frequently thrown around, these words are simple enough and useful for your everyday dealings.
How much: bao nhiêu (bao new)
Too expensive: mắc quá (mak gua)
Can you lower the price: có bớt không (goh bot khong)
Receipt: biên lai (bien lai)
I don’t want: tôi không muốn (toi khong mouan)
It does not fit me: nó không vừa với tôi (noh khong vu-a voi doy)
I will take this one: tôi sẽ mua cái này (doy seh mua gai nai)
Bargaining is the custom in Vietnam, so learning how to ask for a lower price is vital! Often your simple attempt to haggle in Vietnamese will soften the sellers and give you a reduced price. Keep in mind that this will probably still be more expensive than the local price, as foreigners are always offered an inflated figure.
One: một (mord)
Two: hai (hai)
Three: ba (ba)
Four: bốn (born)
Five: năm (nam)
Six: sáu (sauw)
Seven: bảy (bu-ay)
Eight: tám (dam)
Nine: chín (jin)
Ten: mười (mu-ay)
Eleven: mười một (mu-ay mord)
Twenty: hai mười (hai mu-ay)
100: một trăm (mord cham)
200: hai trăm (hai cham)
1000: một nghìn (mord nhin)
Tying in with the bargaining point, learning numbers is very important to discern the price of something. Markets and stalls don’t have prices on them – you will only find priced items in supermarkets. Therefore it is quite essential to be able to recognise numbers as they are spoken. It will also help you to work with your money faster, and propose a lower price if you so wish.
Excuse me (get server’s attention): em ơi (em oi)
We are ready to order: Chúng tôi đã sẵn sàng để đặt hang (Choong doy da sah sang de dat hang)
Please give me a spoon/knife/fork: Cho tôi xin cái muỗng/nĩa/đạo (Che doy sin gai mu-uh-ong/ni-a/dao)
Rice paper rolls: Gỏi cuốn (gai guin)
Vietnamese baguette: Bánh mì (bang mi)
Filled rice and egg pancake: Bánh xèo (bang se-oh)
Barbecue pork with sides: Bún chả (boon cha)
Rice noodle soup: Phó (fuh)
Banana flower salad: Nom hứa chuỗi (nam hu-er cho-y)
Mineral water: nước suối (nook soy)
Beer: bia (bia)
Cup of coffee: tách cà phê (tek ga fey)
Dessert: tráng miệng (chang mi-eng)
May we have the bill: tỉnh tiền (dinh dien)
Knowing how to pronounce those tasty Vietnamese specialities should be high on your language priority list. A good idea is to practice with someone to make sure that your pronunciation is accurate. Once you have the hang of it you will be able to order and eat like a local with ease.
Go straight: đi thẳng (di tan)
Turn right: rẽ phải (ze phai)
Turn left: rẽ trái (ze tchai)
Turn around: quay lại (guay lai)
Stop: dừng lại (zun lai)
Wait here: đợi ở đây (doi o day)
It is not advised for visitors to ride a motorbike themselves, especially in the busy cities. Your main means of transport will probably be by motorbike taxi (xe ôm pronounced ‘se om’) or Uber/Grab. Oftentimes the driver is not certain of your final destination, and you may be in the position to have to gently indicate directions. These phrases will thus come in handy with drivers who are not proficient in English.
Now that you have a basic phrase book at your fingertips, you are ready to plan your next trip to Vietnam with confidence! We hope that it will make your travels much easier and your connections more authentic.
For assistance with accommodation bookings and other travel queries regarding Southeast Asia, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Begodi.