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Pronunciation of Pho and Other Vietnamese Words and Phrases, Part 2

May 26, 2011

Updated 06-21-13. This is Part 2 of a multi-part article on the pronunciation of Vietnamese phrases and words. The very popular Part 1 is closed to requests but has more than 50 audios you can listen too. If you have a request please check there first as someone else may have requested it already. Follow this link to find Part 1 of Pronunciation of Pho and Other Vietnamese Words and Phrases.

1x1.trans Pronunciation of Pho and Other Vietnamese Words and Phrases, Part 2I know there are folks out there who are looking for help with pronunciation of Vietnamese words and phrases, and are looking for accurate and easy to understand guidance and reference on how to properly pronounce certain words in Vietnamese. This post, which is Part 2 of this series, aims to help you with exactly what a word or phrase should sound like, in both Northern and Southern Vietnamese accents when appropriate.

Have a Vietnamese word or phrase you’d like to hear? Here’s what you do: Leave a comment to this post with the word(s) you would like to hear pronounced, and I’ll post a response with audio files demonstrating exactly how they should sound. Please include as much information about the words as you can, with maybe the context you found them in, their meanings (if you know), or where you encountered them. This is because with proper accent marks the same looking words may have different pronunciation and meanings altogether. This will help me say them correctly for you. This site is about pho first and foremost, but I’ll post answers to whatever inquiry received.

If you’re looking for more specific pronunciation, check out these posts:

A single sound can sometime confuse you even more than no sound at all. Therefore, I’m also providing full sentences to demonstrate how the words/phrases should really sound in everyday conversation. You should be able to recognize these sounds in both English and Vietnamese conversational sentences. I’ll start with something requested by Luis from the last comment from Part 1.

  1. Pronounce: “Người Rừng” which literally means “jungle people.”
    • Southern accent (twice, slower then faster) then Northern (twice.)
       
  2. Pronounce the lady’s name: “Nguyệt.”
    • Southern accent then Northern.
       
  3. Pronounce: “Tôi nấu ăn cho gia đình tôi” which means “I cook for my family.”
    • Southern accent then Northern.
       
  4. Pronounce: “Bún chả giò chay” which means “Vermicelli noodles with Vegetarian Spring rolls.”
    • Southern accent then Northern.
       
  5. Pronounce: “Heo xào xả ớt” which means “Pork sautéed in Hot and Spicy Lemongrass.”
    • Southern accent then Northern.
       
  6. Pronounce: “Bò xào xả ớt” which means “Beef sautéed in Hot and Spicy Lemongrass.”
    • Southern accent then Northern.
       
  7. Pronounce: “nước mắm” which means “fish sauce.”
    • Southern similar to Northern, slow then faster.
       
  8. Pronounce: “con chó, con mèo, con khỉ” which means “the dog, the cat, the monkey.”
    • Southern accent then Northern.
       
  9. Pronounce: “Thiên Chúa của tôi” which means “my God”; Thiên Chúa is God, and của tôi is my or of mine.
    • Southern then Northern accent.
       
  10. Pronounce: “nước mía” which means “sugar juice.”
    • Southern and Northern accents similar, repeated twice, slower then faster.
       
  11. Pronounce: “soda xí muội” which means “salty plum with soda drink,” also with sugar for sweetness.
    • Southern and Northern accents similar, repeated twice, slower then faster.
       
  12. Pronounce: “bún bò nướng sả” which means “grilled lemongrass beef with vermicelli noodle.”
    • Southern then Northern accent, each twice, slower then faster.
       
  13. Pronounce: “tô nhỏ, tô lớn” which means “small bowl, large bowl.”
    • Southern then Northern accent, each twice.
       
  14. Pronounce: “chúc bình an” which means to wish someone to be safe and sound, to be at peace and secured.
    • Southern then Northern accent.
       
  15. Pronounce: counting from 1 to 10 in Vietnamese; 1-một, 2-hai, 3-ba, 4-bốn, 5-năm, 6-sáu, 7-bẩy, 8-tám, 9-chín, 10-mười.
    • Southern then Northern accent.
       
  16. Pronounce: “cho một (1) tô phở bò, cho hai (2) tô phở bò, cho ba (3) tô phở bò,” which means to order 1, 2, or 3 bowls of beef pho, respectively.
    • Southern then Northern accent.
       
  17. Pronounce: “bún riêu” which means rice vermicelli usually served with tomato broth with crab or shrimp paste.
    • Southern then Northern accent.
       
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  • 1x1.trans Pronunciation of Pho and Other Vietnamese Words and Phrases, Part 2

{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Unule September 25, 2011 at 6:16 pm

How do you ask a girl to marry you in Vietnamese?

2 Cuong September 25, 2011 at 7:25 pm

Unule: That’s a tough one :) In the old days, and even now in many places, you don’t ask a girl to marry you. Everything is arranged for you by your parents. Easy! As far as I know, there isn’t a formal way for a boy to propose to a girl. Our culture is such that if you go out, you are expected to become husband and wife. Yes even today! And for Vietnamese, by the time you feel you are ready for marriage, then you both would know, wouldn’t you?? And the matter is really handled very privately, not like what they show in the movies. Now asking a girl to marry you is more of a Western way anyway, so the younger generation is more open to this. Sounds like I’m dodging your question, but the reality is … hmm there isn’t a way that I can think of to say this in Vietnamese. If I translate the Western words into Vietnamese, it would sound very funny and out of place. Hope someone else reading this can help me out here, lol. If you do it the Western way and in English, it will be more romantic I think.

Now do you have a question about pho?

3 Craig October 7, 2011 at 7:12 pm

Hello,

How do you say, “May I have a refill on my drink?” and something like, “I am drinking”…iced tea, water, coke or whatever I’m drinking.

Thanks!

4 caroline October 9, 2011 at 1:42 pm

HI! i need help, very urgent!!! i hope you can help ;)
i would need this in audio files, cause i work at the theatre and we are playing a piece which includes a lot of vietnamese dishes…
but as we dunno how to pronounce it the right way, i hope you can help me with the following:

bun chao gio chay

heo xao xa ot

bo xao xa ot

sate

bao-zi

bami pat

bami goreng

gai grob prio wan

phad med mamoang nüah

pa pra

gaeng kiau wang pag

pat thai gai

su ko ya ki

thannnnks so much

5 Cuong October 16, 2011 at 8:56 pm

Hi caroline: Of the many words you requested, only the first 3 are Vietnamese. The 4th, sate, really comes from satay from Indonesia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satay). The first request is probably “Bún chả giò chay” which means “Vermicelli noodles with Vegetarian Spring rolls,” not bun chao gio chay (without the letter o.) All three can be heard in numbers 4, 5 and 6 above. Sorry I can’t help you with the rest.

6 Mina October 17, 2011 at 7:46 pm

Hello,

How would you say and pronounce “Aunt” in Vietnamese? I want to surprise my mother’s sister by calling her Aunt in her native language :)

7 Cuong October 20, 2011 at 8:06 am

Hi Mina: The word “Aunt” in Vietnamese depends on if the aunt is older or younger than your mother, or father, and where (what region) they live and/or are from. It could be “bác” for older, “cô” for younger, or could also be “dì” in many places in the South. So some clarification can help. Also it is considered rude to address your aunt by name, so instead you may want to address her as “Third Aunt” or “Fourth Aunt” depending on where she is in sequence with her siblings.

8 Cuong November 26, 2011 at 3:02 am

Reader Marty said:
Great site!!!
Have heard guys use the term “You bic?” for ‘Do you understand?’ I know it is half english and half Vietnamese can you give me the correct spelling of bic and the complete Vietnamese for ‘Do you understand?’
Pronunciation for a condiment used on Vietnamese food – nuc mom(?).
Also Vietnamese for dog, cat, monkey and monkey face.
Thanks,
Marty

Marty: The correct spelling of “bic” in the context of your question would be “biết” which translate to “know”, so that the meaning is more like “do you know?” rather than “do you understand?”

With respect to “nuc mom” which is fish sauce, the correct spelling is “nước mắm” and is pronounced as in #7 above.

The dog, the cat and the monkey are pronounced as “con chó, con mèo, con khỉ” in #8. Sorry, but I can’t do “monkey face,” unless you can tell me in what context this is used. It would help if you can provide a sample use for it.

Thanks for your requests!

9 Marty November 26, 2011 at 6:32 pm

This is great!

Thank you very much.

Marty

10 Marisol Barner February 7, 2012 at 12:58 am

Really informative blog. Awesome.

11 Cuong February 7, 2012 at 10:07 pm

Marisol Barner: thanks for the kind words about LovingPho! I’m glad the blog provided usual info for you.

12 Cuong March 19, 2012 at 1:09 am

Mike sent me the following message:

Mike: Can you send me an audio file of the words in Vietnamese:
Thiên Chúa của tôi
I hope the above words translate to the two word phrase ‘My God’….my
source of the written translation is from a Google translation.
Thanks!

Hi Mike: “Thiên Chúa của tôi” is pronounced as demonstrated in #9 above. “Thiên Chúa của tôi” means “my God”; Thiên Chúa is God, and của tôi is my or of mine.

Here’s the mp3 file if you want to download it.
http://www.lovingpho.com/wp-content/uploads/mp3/thien-chua-cua-toi.mp3
Hope this helps.

13 Dick Hirsch January 10, 2013 at 6:01 pm

Hi Mike,
Great website. It’s helping me a lot in my new company which has about a 75% Vietnamese population.
Could you please help me with the pronunciation of three names?
– Nga Thuong (First name of our President) – Last name: Le
– Quyen Huynh (First and Last name of a fellow worker)
– Cuong Hoang (First and Last name of another fellow worker).
Thank you so much.

14 Cuong January 14, 2013 at 6:46 pm

Hi Dick: You probably meant “Hi Cuong”, not “Hi Mike” ;)

Please provide some clarification, before I can give you the pronunciation to your names.

– Nga Thuong. Is this a man or woman? Also do you know which is the middle name and which is the given name?
– Quyen Huynh. Again, is this a male or female?
– Cuong Hoang. No need to clarify this one.

15 Debra January 22, 2013 at 6:28 pm

I’m so glad I ran into this page! My mother is Vietnamese but never taught me more than the basics… My brother’s kids call me Co ook (sounds like oops but with a k instead of p) What does that label me. I know it means Aunt.

16 Cuong January 23, 2013 at 12:49 am

Debra: “Cô Út” is what you are referring to, and it literally translates to “youngest aunt.” In Vietnam, it is traditional to call siblings (or even outsiders if you know them well) as Brother #2, Brother #3, Sister #4, and so on, instead of their real name based on oldest to youngest. For reasons unknown (and I apologize I can’t do much research right now) #2 is the oldest and there is no #1. The word “Út” (pronounced ook with a silent k in the South, and oot, as in boot, with a silent t in the North) means youngest. Of course Cô is aunt. For an uncle it would be Cậu (in the South) and Chú (in the North,) so youngest uncle is addressed as Cậu Út or Chú Út.

By the way, just so we can stay out of trouble, this Cô and Cậu business does not apply to all uncles and aunts. Vietnamese use different ways to address uncles and aunts depending on whether one is from the North or South Vietnam, whether the uncle or aunt is older or younger than your parent, and of course, male or female. Hope this helps.

17 Siobhan April 25, 2013 at 11:36 am

nước mía
soda xi muõi

When there is a choice between a large or small bowl of phở, how would one specify which size they want?

18 Siobhan April 25, 2013 at 11:39 am

I forgot this one:

bún bò nướng sả

19 Debra April 30, 2013 at 7:47 pm

AWESOME. I knew the south and the north differences. I grew up with some kids that called their dad by a different name. I also knew depending on which side of the family you are one designates the name you get. lol My mother is the matriarch. I am the only sister and the baby of the 4 brothers. They grew up there me here I was 2 months old when I got here. I am basically treated like a queen in my brother’s home. His wife even does everything for me almost like she does for my mother. I just never knew what Cô Út meant other than Aunt. So what does Yee don’t know spelling but like we call all of my mom’s oldest friends who we consider family Yee Nga or Yee Thu.

20 Cuong May 3, 2013 at 11:32 pm

@Siobhan: You can find the audios for your request in #10, #11 and #12 above. Hope this helps. All 3 are some of my favorites. Great choices!

Specifying the bowl size should be easy. In the U.S., it is very rare that an order taker does not understand “small” or “large” any more. While you can always point to the size you want, you may try “tô nhỏ” for small bowl, or “tô lớn” for large bowl. See #13 above.

You can read additional discussion about bowl sizes in tip #4 in this post Tips on Ordering Pho Your Way: Just Tell Them What You Want.

21 Cuong May 3, 2013 at 11:54 pm

@Debra: So you grew up here in the states and are treated like a queen in your brothers’ homes? That’s one of the nice privileges of being “em út trong nhà” (youngest sibling in the house.) You must be spoiled!

Now your Yee is actually “dì” as mentioned briefly in comment #7 above. It means “aunt” and is used all over the South (and maybe Central Vietnam too, I’m not sure.) The husband of “dì” is “dượng.” And the funny thing is, “dì” and “dượng” are supposed to be used by children in the family to address their uncles and aunts, but everyone in the family (including the elders, grandpas and grandmas, etc.) and even friends of the family, they all end up calling them “dì” and “dượng” as well. And when you add in “Dì Ba” (Third Aunt) or “Dượng Tư” (Fourth Uncle), many kids never knew their aunts’ and uncles’ real names. You’re lucky to be able to call yours Dì Nga and Dì Thu.

Thanks for sharing. Awesome question and comment!

22 Stephanie May 6, 2013 at 11:12 am

How do you pronounce “chuc binh an”? There is an accent mark over the “u” in “chuc” and over the “i” in “binh”. I am trying to say “Peace be with you” during a Catholic Mass.

23 Cuong May 11, 2013 at 1:35 pm

@Stephanie: You can find the audio for “Chúc bình an” in #14 above. “Chúc bình an” literally means to wish someone to be safe and sound, or to be at peace and be secured. This works great especially when someone is going on a long trip. “Peace be with you” is also fine as a translation.

Alternatively, “Chúc bình yên” might work better if your context is a Catholic Mass. “Bình an” has the word “an” in it which is a part of “an-toàn” meaning safe and secure, or it could be “an-tâm” which leans more toward the soul or spirit because of the word “tâm” (pronounced “tum” as in tummy.) When you use yên (as in “bình yên” or “yên tâm”, “yên” itself means at rest or unmoved or relaxed) you can be sure that you are referring to the soul being at peace or being secure.

Sorry for the long winding explanation. Hope this helps.

24 Debra May 11, 2013 at 3:42 pm

Thanks Cuong! My mom now that I am in my late 30s call me Ba’ naw (sounds like small in Vietnamese) Funny how we called everyone. I grew up here but my brothers didn’t make it here until I was 15. My dad was an American he wasn’t in the war he was in WWII so he was working as military contract electrician. He stayed there so long my brothers who didn’t know their fathers claimed him. Two still live there. I also find it funny that when my husband comes with me to my brother’s house my sister in law is always waiting on him or trying to feed him. My daughter calls our closest friends Aunt and Uncle. I still even as an adult call my American aunts/uncles Aunt Sally etc and not just Sally. I totally appreciate your time!

25 Cuong May 11, 2013 at 5:00 pm

@Debra: I really enjoy hearing your story. It is true most everywhere you go in Asia, and I would guess the Middle East and even Africa and South America, that offering/sharing food or a meal is still a sign of family, friendship, trust, etc. between any two or more persons. It is a sign of caring and respect. Sharing a meal is a very strong tie that binds social creatures. And I hope the younger generations will continue the aunt/uncle thing. It provides a much more personal meaning to the relationship. You rock.

26 Amir December 24, 2013 at 1:16 pm

Hi Caroline or anyone else that can help

I’m doing the same play and was wondering if you found out the correct pronunciation for:

bun chao gio chay
heo xao xa ot
bo xao xa ot
sate
bao-zi
bami pat
bami goreng
gai grob prio wan
phad med mamoang nüah
pa pra
gaeng kiau wang pag
pat thai gai
su ko ya ki

Thanks

27 Cuong December 25, 2013 at 2:06 pm

@Amir: Thanks for your question. As I’ve replied to Caroline, only the first 3 are Vietnamese, and pronunciations for those have been provided in numbers 4, 5 and 6 above. The rest are not Vietnamese so I cannot help you here. Hope you find what you need.

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