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Pho Pronunciation: You Can Say It, Pronounce Pho, Say: Phở…

February 26, 2009

Updated 04-02-14. You need only read a few of my posts on this site and you’ll understand my passion for pho. I take my pho seriously. And personally, I’m not one to make fun at my favorite, beloved and respected chow. Certainly not in substance, not in name, and definitely not in pronunciation.

1x1.trans Pho Pronunciation: You Can Say It, Pronounce Pho, Say: Phở...Fuh? foe? FO? Fu-uuuuuhh? PhuUUH? What the P…? Well, you will find no funny stuff here. On the other hand, pronouncing “pho” can be challenging if you don’t have the correct pho pronunciation to go by.

Use your favorite search engine and you’ll find various ways that people suggest how to pronounce pho. If you care and search long enough you’ll discover one or two ways to say “pho” getting propagated by many people. Well guess what, regardless of how widely spread and popular these Internet versions are, and how well-intentioned the individuals may be, these “pho” versions are incorrect pronunciation. Update: there are some decent pronunciation guides now on YouTube.

Since my goal aims to stop further proliferation of such ‘slanderous’ treatment of my favorite noodle dish called pho, I won’t mention them here to further the butchering of the word. Instead I’ll offer the following for your reading (and listening) enlightenment.

First let’s set the record straight. I’m not a hard-liner. I believe in freedom and capitalism as the next sensible person. But I think we can all do better with pho pronunciation. It’s not difficult, and with minimal effort, proper guidance/demonstration and practice, you’ll impress a Vietnamese-speaking person or enjoy watching him/her in shock with such unexpected fluency and command of the language and your knowledge of the dish. Yes, no more “f…” or “ph…”, or whatever. So here goes.

Wikipedia correctly makes a distinction between Vietnamese and English versions of written and pronunciation of pho. That is not to say that it is necessarily acceptable or there is nothing more to it. Granted, written words and their pronunciations in other languages have been “Americanized” before (read ‘butchered’,) so this is nothing new. But in this global economy it’s probably a good thing to try saying non-English words as correctly as possible. Hey anything to help foster international friendship and understanding, right? And when it involves “pho“, it’s even more important to pho lovers and newbies alike.

So, using the International Phonetic Alphabet, the Wiki explains that Phở is pronounced phonetically as [fə̃ː] which sounds like this:

 

Below are my own versions. There are differences which will be explained below. Both wiki’s and my versions are correct pronunciation.

 
 

 

Note: the Wikipedia pronunciation is from a Southern Vietnamese speaker, whereas my pronunciation has both Southern and Northern accents, with probably a 40-60% (South-North) influence. Also I deliberately accentuate to demonstrate the different sounds that exist in the word. Both are phonetically correct and legitimate pronunciation of the word phở.

Sometime a single sound doesn’t really do justice. So below are a few additional phrases with proper pronunciation of “pho” in conversational usage so you get a better sense of the word “pho” and its inflections. You should be able to identify “pho” with no trouble. But more importantly you can now identify “pho” even when spoken in Vietnamese. Try numbers 3 and 4 below.

  1.  
  2.  
  3.  
  4.  

There. It’s pretty easy isn’t it?

Well there is another challenge. North, Central or South Vietnamese accents. Encountering one when you’re familiar with another can throw you off, but that’s for another post. I can tell you one thing, of the two Vietnamese phrases above, one is Northern and the other, Southern accent. Can you tell which is which? If you promise not to cheat, take this poll below, and the answer is at the end of this article.

Which is Northern Vietnamese accent, recording #3 or #4?

I hope that if you enjoy eating pho and care about this noodle dish (and who doesn’t after the first bowl?), please pass on the proper pronunciation, or maybe gently correct a friend who has been misled. Better yet point them to this post so they can experience the recordings above themselves.

So what variety of pho pronunciation have you encountered? Share your views with us with a comment below.

By the way if you need help with Vietnamese pronunciation or would like some guidance or even request help, head on over to read my post on “Pronunciation of Pho and Other Vietnamese Words and Phrases,” and leave a request.

#3: Southern Vietnamese accent
#4: Northern Vietnamese accent

{ 67 comments… read them below or add one }

1 tmckague March 2, 2009 at 5:47 pm

Making me look bad there Cuongis. This is a killer post!

2 Cuong March 2, 2009 at 6:20 pm

Thanks Tim. Hopefully this will help other lost souls find pho nirvana. Hey Mr. Chicken pho! you skipped the poll! Should have taken a crack for the fun of it.

3 Croix82 June 3, 2009 at 9:42 pm

Pho Saigon is my favorite pho restaurant so far. There are still many more restaurants I need to try in town before I can pass judgement. I could eat pho every day. Thanks for visiting my blog.

4 Cuong Huynh June 3, 2009 at 10:24 pm

@Croix82. Thanks for dropping a comment. I’ll have to try Pho Saigon if/when I get to Houston (last time there myself was, let’s see, in the late 80′s!) Anyway keep up your interesting blog and enjoy pho. You’re in the hotbed of pho outside of Vietnam and CA:)

5 markon August 16, 2009 at 9:19 am

what confused me is the similarity of vietnamese to thai and cambodian, and in thai a “PH” is pronounced like a “P” as in Phuket or “Poo-ket” and just a “P” is pronounced “B” as in Pai or “Bye”

Naturally I assumed, that the “ph” in Pho was pronounced like the “ph” in Phuket, like a letter “p” and i guess this is not so, and I think that’s strange.

6 Cuong Huynh August 16, 2009 at 11:10 am

@markon. Interesting point and dilemma you have. Though if you look at it closely, Vietnamese language is much different from Thai and Cambodian. I think Viet is much more different from the other 2 languages than English is different from French, for example. Or saying it another way, English is more similar to French than Viet is similar to Thai and Cambodian.

So the “ph” in pho is pronounced like an “f” and in Viet language there is no word that begins with “p” alone; has to be “ph”. The Western or Roman alphabets are only representation of what these languages really sound. In the end I guess you’ll just have to know the convention. Like the “f” and “v” sound in Volkswagen ;)

7 dvlachos November 1, 2009 at 6:25 pm

I’ve actually come across some Americans who have corrected my pronunciation. I pronounce it like #3. The Americans I have spoken with swear that their Vietnamese friends have told them that it is pronounced PHO as in the American “fo”. I am Lao and grew up with pho in our house. My mom is fluent in a few languages including Vietnamese and she pronounces it like #3. So I picked that up from her. I have never had anyone, including Vietnamese, correct my pronunciation. I’ve actually been complimented. I have posted this on my Facebook. Hopefully, this will settle the argument. Hopefully.

8 Cuong Huynh November 1, 2009 at 8:53 pm

dvlachos: Thanks for sharing this story. I think a Laotian should have no problem pronouncing Viet, and vice versa. On more than one occasion I have tried to explain to an American friend the following facts.

Many Vietnamese, both young and old, and especially those more fluent in English, in an effort to assimilate themselves in American life, have deliberately pronounced Vietnamese words incorrectly while teaching their American friends how to say Viet words (using an American accent no less!) This is because of the following reasons: 1) it’s easier for Americans to learn, 2) it takes less time to teach (instead of repeating 20 times and still not getting it,) and 3) it doesn’t make them sound foreign. As many can attest, not sounding foreign in the U.S. is the way to get accepted.

This seemingly innocent practice has actually caused lots of misunderstanding and confusion about how Vietnamese words are pronounced, and you guessed it, pho included. It’s quite bad to the point that some of these Vietnamese even avoid speaking Vietnamese in the presence of Americans. I’m sure you have experienced similar situations.

9 JimH November 17, 2009 at 9:16 pm

How about fa, as in do re me fa so la tee doe..the music scale? Is this closer?

10 Cuong Huynh November 17, 2009 at 10:26 pm

JimH, thanks for the question, but the pronunciation is as demonstrated above.

11 Santiago December 30, 2009 at 7:36 pm

FINALLY someone who knows what the hell they’re talking about AND provides an audio file to boot!! Thank you!

12 Cuong Huynh December 30, 2009 at 9:15 pm

Santiago: Thanks for visiting and your kind words. Glad you found the pho audio files useful.

13 GB January 11, 2010 at 10:27 am

For those who lack speakers, it is pronounced “phaw,” as in “paw” or “raw.”

14 Cuong Huynh January 12, 2010 at 12:39 am

Dear GB: Thanks for the help, but regretfully your method contributes to the misinformation that is rampant on the Internet. “phaw” is not the pronunciation of phở. In fact it’s not even close. The purpose of the audio files on this site is to provide readers a way to hear how the words should be pronounced correctly. Any other methods, including your suggestion, using similarly pronounced English words would be lacking to say the least.

15 Holly April 19, 2010 at 2:54 pm

So there’s a restaurant in my town named Pho King. Am I to understand that it is actually pronounced “f[edited]?” Because that’s pretty hilarious to me.

16 Cuong Huynh April 19, 2010 at 3:12 pm

Hi Holly: you’re on your own with this one. Personally I think the owner of this pho chain should have a little more respect for what many consider VIetnam’s national dish to the world.

17 Holly April 20, 2010 at 7:26 pm

I agree with you, Cuong. Do you think I should demand to speak to the Pho King manager? I just can’t believe anyone would show such blatant disrespect for Vietnamese cuisine. I won’t be able to eat another Pho King meal without thinking about this travesty. I mean, honestly. It’s a Pho King disgrace!

Don’t worry, Cuong. I’ll take care of this matter as soon as I can. When I storm in there with both guns blazing, those Pho King morons won’t know what hit them!

18 Cuong Huynh April 20, 2010 at 10:01 pm

Sorry Holly to hear you have such strong feelings about such nonsense, and you’ve made your point.

19 phozy April 22, 2010 at 12:27 pm

I am Vietnamese and we at my home have always pronounced it pho, like foeh.

20 Cuong Huynh April 23, 2010 at 11:44 am

Hi phozy: Thanks for your sharing your pronunciation of pho. My personal feeling, and still my original intent of this article, is to let people hear what it sounds like, because when one tries to show others how it should sound using words like “foeh”, it really does not help. Many people would pronounce “foeh” as “phooey” I would guess, which is no where near what phở should sound like.

21 Fă Fă May 12, 2010 at 2:42 pm

After listening to the pronunciation, and if you know Romanian, I would say it’s said “Fă”

22 Cuong Huynh May 26, 2010 at 11:14 pm

Hi Fă Fă: I’ll take your word for it. Not sure what “Fă” means though. Care to enlighten us?

23 Sue June 3, 2010 at 7:02 am

Thanks very much for this. I was saying it ALL wrong!

24 Cuong Huynh June 4, 2010 at 9:50 pm

Hi Sue: You’re very welcome. Of course Vietnamese is not the easiest language to learn, but the important thing is one tries to say it correctly. I’m glad to be of help.

25 Kẻ Không Tên July 12, 2010 at 6:36 am

Just think of the English word “fur” and say it in a confused manner (but don’t over-pronounce the ‘r’). That should be the rough pronunciation.

26 Cuong Huynh July 12, 2010 at 7:01 pm

Hi Kẻ Không Tên: thanks for sharing your comment. Yes i would say that’s pretty rough pronunciation. How about just listen to the recordings? They’re more accurate and useful than any textual description anyway.

27 Kẻ Không Tên July 17, 2010 at 9:26 am

Lol, and if you know IPA (the International Phonetic Alphabet), it is [fə̃ː]

28 Cuong Huynh July 17, 2010 at 7:45 pm

Hi Kẻ Không Tên: IPA is fine, but the purpose of this article is to let people hear the pronunciation, plus IPA does not take into account differences in northern and southern accents.

29 Samantha July 22, 2010 at 4:37 am

Thanks very much for the audio files! As a linguist and speaker of 4 languages (Mandarin included), I find that translations into or using English letters or sounds can be challenging. (I also encountered this issue when learning pinyin.) One thing that I felt would be helpful for non-Viet speakers to know is the tones. It sounded like in the audio files that one Viet speaker used a tonal but the other didn’t, or it was hardly noticeable. Again, that may go back to what you were saying about North and South accents. I would say the closest English phonetic spelling would be “fuh” with a falling and then a slight rising tone. PLEASE correct me if that is not accurate. Thanks again, Cuong, for this post!!!

30 Cuong Huynh July 22, 2010 at 9:17 am

Hi Samantha: I think you are absolutely right. The tones are one of the most difficult but important factors for Westerners to learn to speak Chinese and Vietnamese, among other Asian languages.

Viet language requires tonal inflections to give correct pronunciation, but the majority of Western speakers do not have tonal training or even a concept of tonal inflection, which includes cadence, rhythm, accent, pitch, etc. I personally have no problem with the IPA system or doing the “fuh” or “fur” thing, but these do not convey the tones in anyway, which I estimate to be up to 75% of constituting to correct pronunciation. For phở, they’re definitely at least two tones, lower then rising. This is why I provided a slow version so people can hear the two tones. The southern accent has two tones, the northern accent has mostly the down tone without picking up.

Because the English language does not have such tonal variations, there is the following dynamic occurring. I’ve witnessed Vietnamese speakers teaching English speakers to pronounce a Viet word, but in the process of explaining the word during the conversation (of course the two are conversing in English,) the Viet speaker inadvertently pronounced the Viet word with an English accent, thus pronouncing the word incorrectly. This is because when speaking English it is not easy to suddenly change tone for just one word, then complete the rest of the sentence in English. Unaware of this, the English speaker took that as the correct pronunciation. This is how incorrect pronunciation spread widely, and the English speaker claimed that he heard it directly from a Vietnamese.

So the bottom line? I won’t correct you Samantha, because I can’t hear how you may pronounce it yourself ;) but one thing is for sure: since you are a linguist and speak 4 languages, I trust that you know what you are doing. Awareness is key to much of this, and I think you have it.

By the way, the recordings are all my own voice. I can’t claim to be 100% perfect, but can you clarify your comment about some “audio files have a tonal but the other didn’t, or was hardly noticeable?” If you can point to some examples, I will surely check for any problem that may exist. Thanks!

31 Samantha July 22, 2010 at 9:26 am

Thanks for your response, Cuong. I just meant that to the untrained ear, the tones might be missed all together or dismissed as simply part of the background noise that comes along with English speaking. I heard them….however, as awful as it may sound, making the tonals much more pronounced (as it was in the one audio file) might make it easier for untrained ears to pick it up faster and accurately. All speakers tend to modify their speech when speaking to someone in a foreign tongue i.e. English speakers slowing down, speaking louder, enunciating more exaggeratedly. I thought your audio files were great and wanted to express my appreciation for them. I just thought maybe drawing more attention to the tonal aspect of the language and to certain words might make it easier to explain to some WHY its so important to say them correctly…and HOW to do it. :) Great post.

32 Cuong Huynh July 23, 2010 at 4:59 pm

Hi Samantha: Thanks for the good words. I’ll definitely take your suggestions into account for future recordings, and probably will go back to redo some existing ones to improve quality.

33 Lawrence Pascua December 18, 2010 at 11:40 am

Thanks Cuong… I’ve always wondered this. I am a Filipino American, and pretty sensitive to the nuance. I’ve never been confident about ordering Pho, having to say it. I am now, practicing, and building my confidence before I do so, instead of pointing to the picture of the dish. I love pho! The audio files you posted are most helpful! Aloha, for your great care of your culture and language!

34 Cuong Huynh December 18, 2010 at 11:54 am

Hello Lawrence: Thanks so much for the good words, and I’m glad I’ve helped. I’m sure you’ll enjoy pho even more now ;) You are absolutely right! I think we all should take great care of each of our own culture and language, especially when it comes to our PHỞ!! Yeah!

I understand there are lots of pho places to enjoy in Hawaii. Lucky you.

35 kris February 25, 2011 at 6:12 pm

i love this. i may send it to all those i know who sound like asses when they repeatedly say “foe” even when i try to discretely correct them. or maybe i’ll just let them say “foe” and smile as i laugh hysterically inside.

36 Barrynominal June 5, 2011 at 8:42 pm

So how do you pronounce it? You put it in a sentence, which I read, but did not spell it differently to differentiate the way it’s said :( I’m on my phone, so I can’t listen to audio if that is the case…

37 Cuong June 5, 2011 at 8:52 pm

Hi Barrynominal: The audio files accompanying this article are Flash audio files so if you are on a mobile phone, you may not get to hear them properly. You will need a Flash-supported browser to listen to them. I apologize.

38 Krista June 7, 2011 at 9:57 am

Phở translated to English is Pho… which is pronounced like “Foe.”

39 Cuong June 7, 2011 at 11:51 am

Hi Krista: Pho doesn’t really translate to anything in English, just like sushi or taco. So the choice becomes to say pho in an authentic way or saying it in anglicized way. I would say “foe” is a poor way of saying pho either way. This is why the audio files are provided.

40 Elisabeth June 9, 2011 at 7:28 am

I can appreciate your desire to show us what the correct pronunciation is, and I have a multicultural/multilingual background (I’m American, grew up in Europe and mother is Scandinavian) so I definitely get it. But once a food becomes part of the local culture, it gets a local version of its name. Pho is now not only a vietnamese word but also an American/English word and presumably a word in many other languages.

Do you eat Mexican food? Taco and burrito are now also English words. I’ve never heard someone be criticized for pronouncing them as such. Now, if they went to Mexico and ordered them there with the American version of the words, especially if they were ordering in Spanish, that would grate on my ears, but using them in American-English conversation it’s ridiculous to suddenly put on a ‘correct’ spanish accent for one word. Actually it’s more than ridiculous, it’s pretentious.

I’m a salsa instructor and my husband’s first language is Spanish. Nothing bugs me more than people who walk up to us and try to be more ‘authentic’ and give the correct pronunciation of a handful of spanish-based terms, or even my husband’s name (which is actually the English George, not Jorge) in the middle of English conversation. Salsa is now an English word. When used in English conversation, by an English speaker, it’s appropriate to pronounce it as such. Actually my sons’ names aren’t even American/English (or Spanish!) so when I introduce them, I pronounce their names with an American accent, because that’s appropriate, not because I want to make it easier for those lousy Americans with lazy tongues.

I am critical of the lazy-tongued Americans at other times though. Like when they say “chipoltee” for “chipotle”. Come on, look at how the word is spelled! But I think it’s unfair and unrealistic to be critical of those who pronounce Pho in an Anglicized way when it is now an English word. Just my two cents. I guess though, maybe I need to stop saying ‘foe’. I guess it depends on what the accepted pronunciation ends up being (which is decided organically by the population using it) for this new English word.

41 LC808 August 29, 2011 at 7:54 pm

Nice! Now lets work on Aloha, Oregon (they say uh-low-uh) and karaoke (first off, where does that extra E come from?!?!).

42 Cuong September 5, 2011 at 1:13 am

LC808: Hmm I thought Aloha is pronounced like the Polynesians would pronounce Aloha in Hawaii, no? Uh-low-uh is kind of odd…
Karaoke, now that’s also a mystery to me too. I think this word has been Americanized to death.

43 assdadas November 8, 2011 at 6:37 pm

Your stupid audio files don’t work. Why are you so autistic as to insist that it cannot be spelled phawnetcially? Get a life, weirdo.

44 Cuong November 9, 2011 at 2:39 pm

assdadas: Sorry you feel this way, but that’s how I’d like to help people. By the way it’s phonetically.

45 Michael November 25, 2011 at 7:40 pm

I couldn’t find the answer to the question about North versus Central/South Vienamese accents for audio 3 and 4? I, like the majority, guessed 4 to be the northern accent? Am I right?

46 Cuong November 26, 2011 at 3:31 am

Michael: lol The answers are right there my friend, just below the last words of the article “… and leave a request.” and in very faint gray. Hope you find them.

47 Michael November 26, 2011 at 10:17 am

You’re right, they’re there, but for some reason on my screen they’re so faint I didn’t see them until I went back and looked again. Almost missed them then, but finally barely made them out.
Good web site. My wife and I are new to making Pho, but we’re hooked.

48 Cuong November 26, 2011 at 6:12 pm

Hi Michael: I sort of said the answer is at the end of the article and people should not cheat… ;) so I made a font color light gray on purpose so people don’t cheat lol. Sorry about that, but I’m super glad you and your wife are hooked on pho!

49 John January 19, 2012 at 9:50 am

Ahhh… so that’s how you say it. I have to agree with one of the others above, that “Fa” is close (for those who don’t know how to read the phonics).

50 Daniel January 31, 2012 at 11:10 pm

Hi Cuong

You sure do a great job at responding to the comments and visitors of this website.
I just wanted to say thank you for putting up this website. I am white and grew up in a vietnamese neighborhood and have always appreciated the culture. I was getting frustrated at the way people pronounced pho, and I am pleased you are trying to correct everyone.

Dan

51 Cuong January 31, 2012 at 11:15 pm

Hi John: like I said, to me and my guess is, to a lot of people, it does not help if you put “fa”, “fuh”, “fo”, “f…” whatever, and expect someone to know what it is supposed to sound. To me the best way is still to hear it. Thanks for dropping in with your comment.

52 Cuong January 31, 2012 at 11:37 pm

Hi Dan: Thanks so much for your kind words. I love responding to visitors to LovingPho.com as you can tell, which, by the way, was one of my goals when creating the site in the first place. For a white guy to have such insight and appreciation for other cultures, I salute you! I am happy just to be able to help those who care to pay any attention to pho pronunciation. If I can help just a few people to be able to order their pho in Vietnamese, then I can rest in peace ;)

53 Shanaynae Jones May 23, 2012 at 4:37 pm

I like pho but I prefer bbq chicken and watermelon. Collard greens are cool but I’d rather eat a triple stack burger with extra mayo. I’m from da hood baby doll and we be gang bangin’ on the corner of my mini market next to Duong Phuoc auto repair where he sells his pho in the parking lot. Word! I be telling my baby daddy to get me some pho from the auto repair dude with extra ketchup and bbq sauce.

54 Andrew O October 5, 2012 at 6:56 pm

Thanks for clearing this up for me! I’ve just learned how to make it and now I can pronounce it too :) One weakness of the various Anglo descriptions I’ve heard is – I’m Australian, some speak with an English or Scottish or Irish or Canadian or one of various US accents, and simply hearing what it *actually* sounds like is very useful without having to figure it out.

55 Cuong October 5, 2012 at 7:09 pm

Andrew O: Yes exactly my original intention that I wanted to offer this to those who need to hear it. One cannot learn a language by merely reading letters and words; one has to hear it and speak it. I’m glad you got something out of it. Isn’t the Internet wonderful? Cheers.

56 Richard January 7, 2013 at 10:19 am

That is a crazy way to spell it. Should be spelt ‘Far’ or ‘Fah’.

Pho – people may pronounce as ‘Poe’ or ‘Foe’.

57 Cuong January 7, 2013 at 10:35 am

Richard: Pho as a word is Vietnamese, influenced by French. Anyway, many Asian words are not easy to pronounce to a Westerner or even another Asian person, or conversely, Western language to an Asian. The key to care and learn. The way I look at it is, if I am eating a foreign dish, then I would expect it to have a foreign-sounding name. And by the way, try google “far” or “fah” to get pho. I’m just saying.

58 Richard January 7, 2013 at 12:27 pm

The point is that it is written in Roman letters and it spells either ‘po’ or ‘fo’. Neither which is close to the actual pronunciation and is misleading.

59 Cuong January 7, 2013 at 1:03 pm

Richard: First off I want to say I appreciate your views and comments. The reality is, the proper spelling of the modern Vietnamese word for this dish is phở. For lack of any other way to do it, the “Westernized” version of it has been and will continue to be “pho” for some time to come. Many English speaking people don’t have a problem with it, while many others do.

If your beef with all this is about the spelling versus pronunciation of pho, then consider a perspective on why it is so hard for many to learn to speak English: Words Are Not Always Pronounced The Way They Are Spelt. Talk about spelling vs. pronouncing! How the heck do you pronounce the gh as an f in the words cough, enough, laugh, rough, and tough is beyond many of us. Fortunately I do not have a problem learning English, but many of us Vietnamese did and still do. We just deal with it.

Speaking of misleading, maybe it’s not misleading at all. The modern Vietnamese language has been converted from Chinese characters to alphabet under French colonial times. To borrow from Wikipedia for convenience’s sake, “Much of Vietnamese vocabulary has been borrowed from Chinese, and it formerly used a modified Chinese writing system and given vernacular pronunciation. As a byproduct of French colonial rule, Vietnamese was influenced by the French language; the Vietnamese alphabet (quốc ngữ) in use today is a Latin alphabet with additional diacritics for tones, and certain letters.” Source: Vietnamese language from Wikipedia. So please blame the French for this ;) If the British had colonized Vietnam back then, we would probably have your “far” or “fah.”

By the way, I’ll just share another interesting and funny bit here. Vietnamese communists (at least those during and right after the Vietnam War) never liked the French, and they actually started using fở in place of phở. But really, that did not work well at all; beside the fact that we Viet just laughed at such attempt and would never use it that way, they were still using the Western alphabet and the French accent marks in fở.

60 harry June 21, 2013 at 5:00 pm

thanks for this, cuong. i absolutely love pho-the delicately sweet, aromatic broth, the razor thin slices of rare beef that cook in the broth as you eat them, the crunch from the bean sprouts and ground peanuts…such a delicious and healthy dish. i just had a bowl(as well as a couple of ‘summer’ springrolls with grilled pork) a few hours ago! After listening to your files, i will attempt to order properly next i pop in for lunch-no more ‘i’ll have # 33..’ thanks again!

61 Cuong June 21, 2013 at 7:14 pm

@harry: Very eloquent in describing your pho. And watch out, you may give your server a shock, as they’d never expect a Harry to order his pho speaking Vietnamese.

62 stop being so pretentious January 16, 2014 at 2:32 pm

if you’re an american ordering this in america, it’s pronounced “foe” like Poe. anything else is pretentious and grating on the ears of any decent-minded people in the vicinity. anyone who says “fuh” or “fa” or whatever in the context of an English conversation is an awful human being. Dropping a heavily accented and culturally intoned word into a sentence spoken in a different language makes you a terrible person. people who say, “let’s go get some fuh” are just as bad as people who say, “let’s go get a burrrrrrito” (rolling their Rs like an idiot), especially when they’re from a culture different than the word they’re arrogantly trying to pronounce is from.

and stop getting all high and mighty about the need to respect a [bleep]ing bowl of soup. it tastes good. that’s all. it doesn’t need you to protect it, much less protect its pronunciation.

63 Cuong January 16, 2014 at 2:45 pm

@stop being so pretentious: Thanks for spending the time to read the article and provide feedback. Your message has been edited for content. I’m pleased that you enjoy phở, just don’t hate so much.

64 Huh Pho July 17, 2014 at 8:38 pm

If Americans can learn to pronounce “quesadilla” or “chipotle” correctly – then they can certainly master the proper pronunciation of Pho.

Thanks for the primer.

65 Cuong July 17, 2014 at 9:46 pm

@Huh Pho: I agree. I think Americans are smarter than we give ourselves credit for when it comes to foreign language, and we (I count myself as American) can do as much or as little as we want. Those who can do and want to, can really do a lot of great things. Those who won’t do much will find excuses for not doing much at all. Glad you find this post helpful.

66 John August 22, 2014 at 12:12 am

I understand where the anger from ‘stop being so pretentious’ came from. It’s reached a point in middle-class American interactions where people pride themselves in not only pronouncing “pho” more or less correctly, but in correcting people despite their preference in pronunciation. It’s hardly the same respect, as many of said vain fools, deliver in pronouncing any other word or phrase appropriated from other languages into English and commonly morphed in pronunciation.

While I understand the concern over proper pronunciation in general, I completely relate to the aforementioned frustration given how hypocritically and self-righteously corrections are delivered. “Pho” has now absolutely become one of pronunciations to boast about now that the the successful propagation of Tex-Mex pronunciations left us with, again, more or less correct pronunciations of “quesadilla”, “chipotle”, “guacamole”, and “jalapeño”.

Regardless, I am very appreciative of this post and the recorded pronunciations for our ease of consideration. It was very helpful in cutting through the crap and getting to the point.

67 Cuong August 22, 2014 at 1:04 am

@John: Thanks for your comments. Maybe some readers misinterpret my intention from the early part of the article. To some it may sound snobbish, but in fact it’s all tongue-in-cheek, evident by the word ‘slanderous’ being in quotes. I saw a great opportunity and an excuse for me to help those who cares or are curious to know, and I took it.

Of course, I can’t force others to say things correctly; I can only help by putting this post out there. Correcting others for proper pronunciation is a sticky business, unless you know the person well. On the one hand, you risk alienating people by acting like a know-it-all. On the other, the person may be very appreciative to know the correct way so he/she does better next time.

I hear you about the frustration you described and also from a few others. I think it’s not much different than the word “nuclear” being pronounced nuke – you – lerr. To many it just doesn’t sound right on the ear. And one can’t anglicize everything. I’ll throw my first name out as an example. In Vietnamese it’s written as Cường with certain pronunciation that’s almost impossible for Western tongue, so it had to be translated to “Cuong” for convenience and use in the states. And it’s still not easy. Don’t even mention the numerous times it had been butchered ;) There are times when a new friend tried so hard to correctly pronounce my name that I felt guilty for putting him/her through such ordeal. Regardless, he/she didn’t mind.

And that’s the key point. Those who don’t mind, won’t mind regardless. And those who mind will mind regardless. Why would a Westerner ask me how I pronounce my name? Isn’t it because he/she cares and doesn’t want to disrespectfully mispronounce someone’s name? One has to see the extra effort, and hopefully sincerity, being put forth by the inquiring person. It’s all about understanding and expanding one’s own horizon. I see phở the same way and that is the point of all these pronunciation guides.

Anyway, I’m glad to hear your viewpoints. Let’s all go and have some pho?

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