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

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Updated 05-31-15. 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.

Banh pho line 18I 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.)
      Người Rừng.     
  2. Pronounce the lady's name: "Nguyệt."
    • Southern accent then Northern.
      Nguyệt.     
  3. Pronounce: "Tôi nấu ăn cho gia đình tôi" which means "I cook for my family."
    • Southern accent then Northern.
      Tôi nấu ăn cho gia đình tôi.     
  4. Pronounce: "Bún chả giò chay" which means "Vermicelli noodles with Vegetarian Spring rolls."
    • Southern accent then Northern.
      Bún chả giò chay.     
  5. Pronounce: "Heo xào xả ớt" which means "Pork sautéed in Hot and Spicy Lemongrass."
    • Southern accent then Northern.
      Heo xào xả ớt.     
  6. Pronounce: "Bò xào xả ớt" which means "Beef sautéed in Hot and Spicy Lemongrass."
    • Southern accent then Northern.
      Bò xào xả ớt.     
  7. Pronounce: "nước mắm" which means "fish sauce."
    • Southern similar to Northern, slow then faster.
      Nước mắm.     
  8. Pronounce: "con chó, con mèo, con khỉ" which means "the dog, the cat, the monkey."
    • Southern accent then Northern.
      Con chó - con mèo - con khỉ.     
  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.
      Thiên Chúa của tôi.     
  10. Pronounce: "nước mía" which means "sugar juice."
    • Southern and Northern accents similar, repeated twice, slower then faster.
      Nước mía.     
  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.
      Soda xí muội.     
  12. Pronounce: "bún bò nướng sả" which means "grilled lemongrass beef with vermicelli noodle."
    • Southern then Northern accent, each twice, slower then faster.
      Bún bò nướng sả.     
  13. Pronounce: "tô nhỏ, tô lớn" which means "small bowl, large bowl."
    • Southern then Northern accent, each twice.
      Tô nhỏ - tô lớn.     
  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.
      Chúc bình an.     
  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.
      Counting from 1 to 10 in Vietnamese.     
  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.
      Ordering 1-2 or 3 bowls of beef pho.     
  17. Pronounce: "bún riêu" which means rice vermicelli usually served with tomato broth with crab or shrimp paste.
    • Southern then Northern accent.
      Bún riêu.     
  18. Pronounce: "Huỳnh Thị Thu Hằng" which is a female name.
    • Southern then Northern accent.
      Huỳnh Thị Thu Hằng.     
  19. Pronounce: "Ninh Đức Hoàng Long" which is a male name.
    • Southern then Northern accent.
      Ninh Đức Hoàng Long.     
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37 comments

  1. Cuong 25 September, 2011 at 19:25

    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?

  2. Craig 7 October, 2011 at 19:12

    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!

  3. caroline 9 October, 2011 at 13:42

    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

  4. Cuong 16 October, 2011 at 20:56

    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.

  5. Mina 17 October, 2011 at 19:46

    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 :)

  6. Cuong 20 October, 2011 at 08:06

    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.

  7. Cuong 26 November, 2011 at 03:02

    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!

  8. Cuong 19 March, 2012 at 01:09

    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.

  9. Dick Hirsch 10 January, 2013 at 18:01

    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.

  10. Cuong 14 January, 2013 at 18:46

    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.

  11. Debra 22 January, 2013 at 18:28

    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.

  12. Cuong 23 January, 2013 at 00:49

    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.

  13. Siobhan 25 April, 2013 at 11:36

    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?

  14. Debra 30 April, 2013 at 19:47

    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.

  15. Cuong 3 May, 2013 at 23:32

    @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.

  16. Cuong 3 May, 2013 at 23:54

    @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!

  17. Stephanie 6 May, 2013 at 11:12

    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.

  18. Cuong 11 May, 2013 at 13:35

    @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.

  19. Debra 11 May, 2013 at 15:42

    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!

  20. Cuong 11 May, 2013 at 17:00

    @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.

  21. Amir 24 December, 2013 at 13:16

    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

  22. Cuong 25 December, 2013 at 14:06

    @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.

  23. Cuong 14 December, 2014 at 18:49

    Hey Melissa: Huỳnh is the same last name as mine! This is a female name. The full written name is Huỳnh Thị Thu Hằng (actually, Vietnamese names are hyphenated like so: Huỳnh-Thị-Thu-Hằng, but not many people use it nowadays.) Anyway thanks for asking. The pronunciation is number 18 in the list above. Cheers.

  24. Maggie 28 May, 2015 at 15:33

    Hi,
    great blog, I love it. I got here because I am trying to get a pronunciation of a male name.
    Can anyone help me with it?

    *Ninh Duc Hoang Long*

    Any help would be appreciated.

    Thanks

    Cheers from Ireland!

  25. Cuong 31 May, 2015 at 11:44

    @Maggie: Thanks for your request. You can find the pronunciation of Ninh Đức Hoàng Long as number 19 in the list above.

  26. Maggie 31 May, 2015 at 13:25

    @Cuong
    Thank you very much,Cuong. I’ll attempt to pronounce it and your audio file is much appreciated!!!

    “Go raibh maith agat. ” -Thank you in Irish!

    Maggie

  27. Cuong 4 June, 2015 at 15:35

    @Maggie: you’re very welcome! Hopefully you’ll find it fairly straightforward. I think these are easier words in Viet language to attempt. There are words that are much worse to pronounce 😉

  28. Maggie 4 June, 2015 at 18:28

    @Cuong, thanks,well I certainly need to try to pronounce “Ninh Đức Hoàng Long” – can’t call him forever given nicknames however he likes them all Lol
    I know only a few words like ” Chao tam biêm” or ” Chao anh”. :-)
    Very difficult language – but beautiful.

    Thank you again for your help,

    Maggie

  29. Maggie 7 June, 2015 at 15:49

    @Cuong

    It’s good to be a fan when this guy, Ninh Đức Hoàng Long is such a talented person and he can sing/speak in my own mother language (Hungarian) as well as in Vietnamese it’s just superb and I hope he will be a world known singer like Pavarotti was. Fair play to him!

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