If you’re travelling to Vietnam, you don’t need to be an expert in the language. But, to impress the locals and make your own life easier, there are some words and phrases worth knowing in Vietnam. Making an effort with the language can go a long way.
Vietnamese is the official language, spoken by roughly 90; of Vietnam’s population.
With a few key Vietnamese phrases, you will be able to enjoy basic conversation and find your way around more easily:
1. Xin Chao
Xin Chao (pronounced Sin Chow) means ‘Hello’. It’s one of the most basic Vietnamese phrases to learn before you travel.
2. Xin Loi
Xin Loi (pronounced Sin Loy) is an apology. In the busy Vietnamese cities, it’s a good phrase to keep in mind as you work your way through the crowds.
3. Xin Muhoi and Cảm Ơn
‘Xin Muhoi’ is Vietnamese for ‘Please’. Pronounce it roughly as ‘Sin Muoy’.
Said almost like you live in the East End of London and are trying to motivate a dawdling toddler, ‘Cảm Ơn’ is ‘Thank You’ in Vietnamese. Another great phrase for travellers to know. This can be pronounced ‘Cam Uun’. The tone should go lower at the end, rather than rising.
4. Tên tôi là…
‘Tên tôi là’ is pronounced much the same as it’s written – ‘Ten toy la’.
This phrase means ‘My name is…’. It’s a valuable phrase to know if you’re making friends with locals, but can also be important if you’ve dealt with a particular person, such as a customer service advisor, and might need their name for future reference.
5. Tạm Biệt
‘Tạm Biệt’ is ‘Goodbye’ in Vietnamese. Pronounce it ‘Tam Be-yurt’, quickly cutting off the ‘t’ at the end.
Alternatively, you can say ‘Lâu quá!’, pronounced ‘Low Qua’. This means ‘So long!’ and is often used in place of ‘Tạm Biệt’.
If you’re vegetarian, asking for anything ‘chay’ should get you a vegetarian version of the dish. Look out for this keyword on restaurant menus, or even in restaurant names if you want to be sure that they’re serving vegetarian dishes.
Buddhists typically eat a vegetarian diet, particularly on the 1st and 15th days of the month, so you’re likely to find more vegetarian eateries if you’re close to Buddhist temples and pagodas.
7. Chúc mừng năm mới!
This phrase is specifically for use if you’re visiting Vietnam in January.
This is when Vietnamese people celebrate Tết, the Lunar New Year.
You can say Chúc Mừng Năm Mới to wish somebody a Happy New Year. This is said much the same as it’s written, which makes it an easy phrase to learn and use if you’re around for New Year celebrations.
8. Bạn có nói được tiếng Anh không?
When the conversation gets too complicated, your basic Vietnamese phrases may no longer be enough. Ask ‘Bạn có nói được tiếng Anh không?’, or ‘Do you speak English?’.
Most of the people you come across will speak conversational English, enough to provide at least the basic information that you need.
To pronounce this, say ‘Ban co-tay noy ting an-kong?’
A few basic greetings and simple manners should be enough. In times when they’re not, asking someone if they can speak English should open up a much wider conversation.
If you would like to suggest any phrases worth knowing in Vietnam please let me know in the comments below.