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

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chuynh
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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.

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Kẻ Không Tên
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 Kẻ Không Tên
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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.

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chuynh
Posts: 410
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Pho Restaurant Consultant
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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.

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

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chuynh
Posts: 410
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Pho Restaurant Consultant
Joined: 11 years ago

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.

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Samantha
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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!!!

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chuynh
Posts: 410
(@chuynh)
Pho Restaurant Consultant
Joined: 11 years ago

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!

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Samantha
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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.

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