Pronunciation of Pho and Other Vietnamese Words and Phrases

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Updated 04-02-14Requests are closed for this post, but still have a Vietnamese word or phrase you'd like to hear? Here's what you do: go to Pronunciation of Pho and Other Vietnamese Words and Phrases, Part 2 and make a request there with the word(s) you would like to hear pronounced, and I'll be happy to post audio files for those. Pronunciation of the surname Nguyen (Nguyễn) can be found in #50 below.

Banh pho line 18I'm guessing that there may be 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 aims to help you with exactly what a word or phrase should sound like, in both Northern and Southern Vietnamese accents when appropriate. If you're looking for more specific pronunciation, check out these posts:

Now, on with pronouncing Vietnamese words and phrases. A single sound can sometime confuse you even more than no sound at all. Therefore, I'll also provide 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. Here are some useful Vietnamese phrases in no particular order.

  1. Pronounce: Pho bac - Northern style pho
    Play audio     
    • "This bowl of pho bac is quite big."
      Play audio     
    • "I eat pho bac every chance I get."
      Play audio     
  2. Pronounce: Pho chay - vegetarian pho (Southern then Northern accents)
    Play audio     
    • "Pho chay has no meat ingredients."
      Play audio     
    • "I had some pho chay just last week."
      Play audio     
  3. Pronounce: Pho ga - chicken pho 
    Play audio     
    • "My friend Tim eats pho ga and nothing else."
      Play audio     
    • "Pho ga is my sister's favorite noodle dish."
      Play audio     
  4. Pronounce: Pho tai - rare beef pho 
    Play audio     
    • "My friend Mason orders pho tai every time."
      Play audio     
    • "Pho tai is very easy to enjoy."
      Play audio     
  5. Pronounce: Hu tieu - a different kind of noodle dish 
    Play audio     
    • "I'll have some hu tieu when pho is not available."
      Play audio     
    • "Hu tieu uses the same noodle as pho."
      Play audio     
  6. Pronounce: Tan Son Nhut (or Tan Son Nhat)
    • "Tan Son Nhut," Southern Viet accent.
      Play audio     
    • "Tan Son Nhat," Northern Viet accent.
      Play audio     
  7. Pronounce: Hue-Saigon-Hanoi
    • "Hue-Saigon-Hanoi," Southern Viet accent.
      Play audio     
    • "Hue-Saigon-Hanoi," Northern Viet accent.
      Play audio     
  8. Pronounce: Bun thit nuong cha gio (Bún thịt nướng chả giò)
    • Southern Viet accent, slow then faster.
      Play audio     
    • Northern Viet accent, slow then faster.
      Play audio     
  9. Pronounce: Cà phê sữa đá / Cà phê sữa nóng (milk coffee, iced/hot)
    • Southern Viet accent, cà phê sữa đá.
      Play audio     
    • Northern Viet accent, cà phê sữa đá.
      Play audio     
    • Southern Viet accent, cà phê sữa nóng.
      Play audio     
    • Northern Viet accent, cà phê sữa nóng.
      Play audio     
  10. Pronounce: Sữa chua (sour milk or yogurt)
    • Southern then Northern accents.
      Play audio     
  11. Pronounce: Chè sữa chua nếp cẩm (dessert: yogurt with sticky rice and coconut milk)
    • Southern Viet accent, slow then faster.
      Play audio     
    • Northern Viet accent, slow then faster.
      Play audio     
  12. Pronounce: Dĩa tái sống (plate of uncooked sliced steak)
    • Southern then Northern accents.
      Play audio     
  13. Pronounce: Xin chúc mừng cho 50 năm hôn nhân và gia đình tuyệt vời (Happy 50th wedding anniversary and a splendid/magnificent family.) See comment #18 below.
    • Northern accent.
      Northern accent.     
    • Southern accent.
      Southern accent.     
  14. Pronounce: Xin chúc mừng 50 năm hôn nhân và dồi dào sức khỏe, thọ lâu muôn tuổi (Happy 50th wedding anniversary, with great health and longevity.) See comment #18 below.
    • Northern accent.
      Northern accent.     
    • Southern accent.
      Southern accent.     
  15. Pronounce: Chúc mừng sinh nhật (Happy Birthday.) See comments #20 and #21 below.
  16. Pronounce: Bún Bò Huế (Hue-style spicy beef noodle). Southern then northern accent.
    Bún Bò Huế (Hue-style spicy beef noodle). Southern then northern accent.     
  17. Pronounce: Hủ Tiếu Nam Vang (hu tieu Phnom Penh-style noodle). Southern then northern accent.
    Hủ Tiếu Nam Vang (hu tieu Phnom Penh-style noodle).     
  18. Pronounce: Bún Mắm (fermented fish soup noodle). Southern then northern accent.
    Bún Mắm (fermented fish soup noodle). Southern then northern accent.     
  19. Pronounce: Mì Quảng. Southern then northern accent.
    Mì Quảng. Southern then northern accent.     
  20. Pronounce: Việt Nam. Southern then northern accent.
    Việt Nam. Southern then northern accent.     
  21. Pronounce: Xin Chúa nhận lỗi chúng con (Lord forgive our sins.) Southern then northern accent.
    Xin Chúa nhận lỗi chúng con (Lord forgive our sins.)     
  22. Pronounce: Chúc Mừng Năm Mới (Happy New Year.) Southern and northern accent are similar.
    Chúc Mừng Năm Mới (Happy New Year.)     

  23. Pronounce: Bà Nội (Grandmother - maternalpaternal) and Ông Nội (Grandfather - paternal.) Southern and northern accent are similar.
    Bà Nội (Grandmother - paternal) and Ông Nội (Grandfather - paternal.)     
  24. Pronounce: Gỏi cuốn (Spring roll.) Southern then northern accents.
    Gỏi cuốn (Spring roll.)     
  25. Pronounce: Đặng Thùy Trâm. Southern and northern accent are similar.
    Đặng Thùy Trâm.     
  26. Translate and pronounce: “Hey, just hold on there a minute!” This can be translated to several different ways in Vietnamese, depending on the context, personality and region of the speaker. Several variations are provided, but not by any means exhaustive, and each is just as valid and applicable as the other. Only southern accent is provided. First all 4 variations in written form, then audio of all 4 together.
    • 1. "Khoan, chờ một chút, từ từ đã!" "Wait, just a moment, slow down!"
    • 2. "Từ từ, chờ chút!" "Slow down, just a moment!"
    • 3. "Khoan, chờ một chút!" "Wait, just a moment!"
    • 4. "Khoan, từ từ đã, chờ một chút!" "Wait, slow down, just a moment!"
    • Audio for above.     
  27. Pronounce: Xinh. Southern then northern accent.
    Audio for Xinh.     
  28. Pronounce: Cá kho tộ (clay pot fish, or braised fish in caramel.)
    • Southern and northern accents similar. Slower then faster speech.
      Cá kho tộ (clay pot fish or braised fish in caramel.)     
  29. Pronounce: Chúc bạn được một niềm vui và tình yêu thương (loosely translated to "I wish you joy and love.")
    • Southern accent.
      Chúc bạn được một niềm vui và tình yêu thương.     
  30. Pronounce: Hữu nghĩa (friendship.)
    • Southern accent. Slower then faster speech.
      Hữu nghĩa (friendship.)     
  31. Pronounce: Ông ngoại, bà ngoại (grandpa, grandma.)
    • Southern/northern accents similar. Slower then faster speech.
      Ông ngoại-bà ngoại (grandpa-grandma.)     
  32. Pronounce: Xin vui lòng yên lặng (one variation for "quiet please.")
    • Southern accent slower then faster speech. Same for Northern accent.
      Xin vui lòng yên lặng.     
  33. Pronounce: Đức Huy Trần or Trần Huy Đức (for Viet names, it's customary for the surname Tran to go first and the given name Đức goes last.)
    • Đức Huy Trần (Southern accent) then Trần Huy Đức (Southern then Northern accents.)
      Đức Huy Trần or Trần Huy Đức.     
  34. Pronounce: Phi công (pilot) and Đại uý (Army Captain)
    • Phi công - Southern and Northern accent similar, repeated twice.
      Phi công (pilot).     
    • Đại uý - Southern and Northern accent similar, slow then normal speech.
      Đại uý (Army Captain).     
  35. Pronounce: Hello, goodbye, please and thank you.
    • Chào (hello, rarely used alone as is,) chào anh (hello to young male acquaintance,) chào chị (hello to young female acquaintance) (Southern accent.)
      Chào - chào anh - chào chị.     
    • Chào tạm biệt (goodbye.) (Southern then Northern accent.)
      Chào tạm biệt (goodbye.)     
    • Vui lòng, xin vui lòng (please, each repeated twice.) (Northern accent.)
      Vui lòng - xin vui lòng (please.)     
    • Cám ơn/Cảm ơn (thank you, either same meaning.) (Each with Northern then Southern accent.)
      Cám ơn-Cảm ơn (thank you.)     
  36. Pronounce: Phở áp chảo bò gà tôm (Pan fried flat rice noodle with beef, chicken, shrimp.)
    • Southern accent, slow then normal speech.
      Phở áp chảo bò gà tôm.     
  37. Pronounce: Chanh muối/soda chanh muối (salted preserved lemonade in soda.)
    • Southern accent, then Northern.
      Chanh muối/soda chanh muối.     
  38. Pronounce: Soda chanh (fresh lemonade in soda.)
    • Southern accent twice, then Northern twice.
      Soda chanh (fresh lemonade in soda.)     
  39. Pronounce: Sữa đậu nành (fresh soybean milk.)
    • Southern accent, then Northern.
      Sữa đậu nành (fresh soybean milk.)     
  40. Pronounce: Phù Long, Hai Phong VN (a place in North Vietnam.)
    • Southern and Northern accents similar (slow than normal speech.)
      Phù Long.     
    • View Phù Long on map: View Larger Map
    • There are also other places called Phú Long (slow than normal speech.)
      Phú Long.     
  41. Pronounce: Bắc Ninh (Province in North Vietnam.)
    • Southern accent, then Northern.
      Bắc Ninh.     
  42. Pronounce: Ordering extra bánh phở noodles with your phở in Vietnamese.
  43. Pronounce: Bánh da lợn (Pig skin cake, Vietnamese steamed layer cake made from tapioca starch, rice flour, mashed mung beans, taro, or durian, coconut milk and/or water, and sugar.)
    • Southern accent, then Northern.
      Bánh da lợn.     
  44. Here's a look at what bánh da lợn looks like for those not familiar.
  45. Pronounce: Various types of Vietnamese bánh mì in Vietnamese.
  46. Pronounce names of boys in orphanage requested by Kay Coombes: Trí Đức, Phước, Lương, Phong, Bình/Bính, Thanh/Thành, Thiên/Thiện, Toi (unknown/not pronounced,) Vũ, Sang, Tâm, Tân, Sơn, Nhật, Tùng, Tuấn.
    • Southern accent only.
      Names of boys.     
  47. Pronounce the female name Anh-Thư.
    • Southern accent, then Northern.
      Anh-Thư.     
  48. Pronounce words and names from the play "Minefields and Miniskirts" as requested by Melissa. All pronunciation in Southern accent.
    • Tự Do (freedom.)
      Tự Do (freedom.)     
    • Vũng Tàu (place name.)
      Vũng Tàu.     
    • Đồng Khởi.
      Đồng Khởi.     
    • Đà Nẳng (place name.)
      Đà Nẳng.     
    • Pleiku (place name.)
      Pleiku.     
    • Lam Sơn (place name.)
      Lam Sơn.     
    • Lê Lợi (Emperor of Vietnam and founder of the Later Lê Dynasty.)
      Lê Lợi.     
    • Ban Mê Thuột (city name.)
      Ban Mê Thuột.     
    • Huế (place name.)
      Huế.     
    • Giác Lâm (place name.)
      Giác Lâm.     
    • Qui Nhơn (place name.)
      Qui Nhơn.     
    • An Khê (place name.)
      An Khê.     
    • Xanh (color green or blue.)
      Xanh (color green or blue.)     
    • Phương (female name, different from Phượng, also female name or flower.)
      Phương.     
  49. Pronounce the female name Ngọc-Hân.
    • Southern accent, then Northern.
      Ngọc-Hân.     
  50. Pronounce the surname Nguyễn.
    • Southern accent (twice,) then Northern (twice.)
      Nguyễn.     
Please do not cut the jackfruit

In cutlery section of a Little Saigon supermarket: “Please do not use knives to cut the jackfruit. Thank you.”

I just want to close this post with this photo to the right. While it seems just a funny and odd sort of thing, it says so much about us Vietnamese that I can't help but chuckle every time I look at it again. It's really not about the fact that there are customers who want to taste the jackfruit so badly before they decide to buy it, that they will go get a knife from the store shelf to cut it up and try it; I'm sure this can happen in any retail shop anywhere. It's really about how the supermarket treats its customers, in a tactful and very Vietnamese way. I see a lot of love for fellow countrymen, with lots of understanding about the fact that we love our fruits so much we'd go to such length to make sure we buy only great tasting jackfruit. So with this understanding and love, the store just gently requests that the customers stop doing it. Priceless.

Again, request for this post is closed, but you can go to Pronunciation of Pho and Other Vietnamese Words and Phrases, Part 2 and leave your request there. Thanks for visiting.

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