It’s no doubt that when you have a wonderful chance to move overseas or just simply visit a country for vacation, the first things that come to your mind would be the feeling of thrill, excitement, and maybe a little bit of anxiety.
Some people would be worried about the financial affordability, others would be afraid that they have troubles while traveling to their holiday destination as it can be their first time, or people are stressing out about the language barrier. For instance, an American traveling to India, or vice versa. Nonetheless, in this article, we will only be solving language issues for those who intend to travel to Vietnam in a short while. Now let’s kick it!
First of all, let’s discover several greeting phrases that you can use when communicating with others in Vietnam. Greetings in Vietnam play an important role due to the “Friendly Culture” that you may have heard many times.
In this beautiful Eastern country, they have a saying that goes “Loi chao cao hon mam co”, which indicates that the words of greetings are highly appreciated since it shows your respect and good intentions towards others even in your first meet.
Now that we have gone through the importance of greetings, it’s time we listed the Vietnamese phrases in this matter from the easiest to most complex levels. The most basic phrases would be “hello”, “How are things lately?”, or “How are you?”. Now, I would be explaining and introducing a few more Vietnamese greeting phrases
Hello or Hi is the most basic and common phrase to use in Vietnam. However, you can only use such phrases with peers or people who are at the same age as you. To explain further, these two phrases of Hello or Hi means “Xin Chao” in Vietnamese. The Hello or Hi would express a sense of informality and friendliness. This way of saying is also used for intimate relationships as they don’t need to show formality. There you have your first phrase to use!
Since you will be meeting many people from different age ranges, Hello or Hi would be sufficient to use in all situations. For example, you may stay in a household during your vacation or residence, and it’s unavoidable that you meet someone that is much older. In this circumstance, Hello or Hi is not recommendable. Nevertheless, a “Good morning, sir” or “Good afternoon, madam” is a great way to show your respect to the older. Besides, it’s a polite way to say Hello or Hi.
We’ve acknowledged the phrases to say hello, now it’s time to review, then moving forward to the more complex phrases. The order would be from left to right, simply take it like this: English first to determine then the right term is your Vietnamese phrases to use.
Now you may be wondering what other things people say to each other during one short greeting? As mentioned, greetings in Vietnam are so essential that each greeting whether in a daily conversation or in a business one, people do it thoroughly. In a daily conversation between two women, it can be going like this:
Chao chi, lau qua roi em khong gap chi
Oh chao em, cung lau qua roi khong gap
The dao nay chi khoe khong? Doi song on khong? Cac chau nha chi van ngoan chu?
Chi khoe, moi thu tuyet voi lam, con cac chau nha van ngoan. Em thi sao?
The conversation above is a short demonstration of how a daily talk would be going between two women. If they are close or know each other for a long while, they would go through all kinds of questions relating to personal stuff in an intimate way. That’s how they show their friendliness and sense of caring towards one another. Now is the part for introducing some Vietnamese phrases in greetings on a more complex level.
These are a few “more complex” Vietnamese phrases, but we hope it would help to enhance your communication when going on a vacation or taking a residence in Vietnam. Great things start with small progress.
Vietnamese are friendly and well-intended. They barely get offended by the small talk, but in a way, Vietnamese focus and emphasize the ways of addressing. When stepping foot down to this country, you need to learn a lesson of Vietnamese addressing people, and here you’ve found it.
It is not difficult at all to address people who are older than you. However, you need to pay attention to these ways of addressing a person. Addressing other people is divided into many groups, but in this part, there are only two parts divided, which are family members and others. Here are a few notes:
The list above has summed up a few ways for you to address someone who is older, whether they are your acquaintances or family members. You can both use them in either daily situations or formal ones.
Here is another fun part. Addressing people at the same age as you or younger has numerous ways to do, and it can be applied in both informal or formal conversation
The ways to address people are also listed above in the previous part. Male is addressed as “anh/chu/cau/ong/em”, while female is addressed as “em/chi/co/di/bac”
Since we have gone through a lot of ways to address people, who are not in a relationship, which kind is intimate and loving towards each other. This part would show you other few ways to address your partners in a romantic and sweet ways, which is applicable in Vietnam
There you have some useful phrases to address people. Now that you’ve known how to address other people using Vietnamese phrases, we would be moving to the next part, which is getting to know someone in Vietnam.
Just like in any country that speaks English, Vietnamese also have phrases to ask people about their basic information and start a small talk. Here are a list of it:
Hey, where do you come from/ where are you from?
What’s your name?
How old are you – this is essential to ask because you do not want to address somebody wrongly. Vietnamese people can be one of the most friendly people in the world, but they would be enjoying themselves if they are inappropriately addressed.
What do you do for a living?
Do you have a boyfriend/ girlfriend?
Do you speak English?
Where do you live now?
Can we have a coffee together some time?
These are the questions you would normally ask people when wanting to make acquaintances, and you would be asked a lot when in Vietnam. As mentioned, Vietnamese people are so friendly, and they always want to make new friends wherever they go.
When you start learning to speak a new language, there is no need to acknowledge the complex phrases as you cannot understand them properly and may speak them wrongly when communicating to others. Now that you have the basic Vietnamese phrases, you can make good use of them.
Apart from basic phrases to address people or start a conversation, you also need to know about some Vietnamese phrases to use in daily life such as goodbye, or thank you. Now let’s go through a list!
Sorry – Xin loi can be used in so many contexts. You say sorry to others when you make a mistake, you say sorry when you interrupt accidentally, or when you may step on their foot. Normally, accidental situations need no proper apology, just simply say sorry then you are good to go. However, in more serious contexts, make sure you say sorry sincerely and politely. You can put it this way: Toi xin loi, toi khong co tinh lam vay/ Toi xin loi ban nhieu, mong ban bo qua – I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it/ I didn’t do it on purpose, or I’m sorry, hope you would forgive me.
For example: Can I have that, please? Toi co the lay cai do khong? Lam on di
Since you have known the basic Vietnamese phrases to start a conversation or ask for support, you would definitely need to know phrases that help you in determining directions and means of transport. This is also important no matter whether you are on vacation or residence in Vietnam.
In english speaking countries, there are so many means of transport, and the directions, street arrangements are also different from those of Vietnam. Hence, take notes of these down:
Can you show me the way to…/ Do you know the direction to this place?
Turn left/ right
The place you are heading to is about 2 kilometers away
Some Vietnamese words you may want to know:
Country – Nation has the similar meaning but it refers to To Quoc rather than Dat nuoc
For example: Cho toi mua 1 cai ban do duoc khong? Can I have a map, please?
These are the two most common means of transport in Vietnam. Obama once said when he came to visit Vietnam: I’ve never seen so many motorbikes in my life! Toi chua bao gio thay nhieu xe may trong doi minh nhu the!
A few more new Vietnamese words:
Bus – Bus stop
Shopping is no doubt one of the most enjoyable activities in life. But to have the best shopping experience in Vietnam, you must first – know where to shop, then next how to shop.
When shopping in Vietnam, one of the most worth-shopping would belong to Ho Chi Minh City. You can shop at either Ben Thanh Market or Saigon Square shopping supermall.
Now that you know where to shop, let’s go through how you can shop and how you should shop in Vietnam. First of all, you must know some basic Vietnamese phrases to bargain and purchase any goods you want. Here they are:
Give me the price please/ How much is this?
Do you have any stock of this?
Give me two please!
This is too expensive
I’ll take this if you discount 50 thousand VND
This is too expensive, I won’t have it
Goods are so nice here
I love shopping here
Can we go shopping sometime?
I’ll come back next time
Vietnamese is famous for its cheap but high-quality merchandise. If you have spent millions of VND on brands or stores in the street, then you can find almost all the goods at the markets at a much cheaper price but same quality. Not to mention the global brands, but most of the goods supplied for store local brands are from the head markets – “cho dau moi”.
When shopping in Vietnam, it is also different from shopping in any other places because of the vibe it brings: dynamic, close to people, and colorful. It also shows a part of Vietnamese culture. Last but not least, remember to bring a native speaker with you when first shopping in Vietnam as he or she would know well how to bargain – mac ca with vendors and save you a lot of money!
Vietnam is well-known for its amazing cuisine with numerous delicious dishes that you may never find in another country. People may know Vietnam for its Pho, but there are so many dishes such as Bun Rieu, Mien, Bun Ca, Hu Tieu, My Quang, Cao Lau, Banh Khot, Banh Goi, Banh Xeo, Xoi Man… This is truly a wonderful Asian cuisine. Now let’s inform you some Vietnamese words and basic phrases to use in restaurants
You also need to know how to grab the attention of the waiters or waitresses in Vietnam. You have two ways to do this: wait for them to come to your table or just shout out: Em oi. Em oi is normally used in street places or the local ones, not fancy restaurants, but Vietnamese do use this way a lot. It does not show that you don’t respect the waitress or waiter, you simply want their attention.
Having coffee is a culture and a trend among Vietnamese, especially for the youth, who can be called Gen Z, Gen Y. Going to coffee shops, most significantly the local ones, now is not simply having a coffee but it is also about enjoying the atmosphere. Many people go to coffee shops for their dates, romantically or business. They also head there with friends when they need someone to talk and listen to them.
There is a post saying that “Neu co ai moi ban di cafe, nghia la ho dang hoi ban rang Di tam su khong?” – If someone asks you to go for a coffee, it means they want to talk about their concerns and they trust you! Going to coffee shops in Vietnam is a fun and special activity; hence you need to know some phrases to speak there, and here they are!
You would be needing more new words in this section rather than phrases, but let’s just go through the phrases first.
Eg: How many pens are there? – Co bao nhieu cai but vay?
Words about Numbers:
Words about Colors:
Words about Sizes:
Sizes normally seen in Vietnam: S, M, L, XL, XXL
No matter where you stay or stay for holiday, you must put your safety first and in the unlucky situations, you have to know about the phrases that can keep you alive or help you at least, and there they are:
Cuu toi voi: Help me
Toi can ban giup: I need your help
Toi vua bi cuop: I just got robbed
Hay goi canh sat giup toi: Please call the police
Cho toi so canh sat voi: Please give me the policeman’s hotline!
Don canh sat gan nhat o dau: Where is the nearest police station?
Toi can di benh vien ngay bay gio: I need to get to the hospital right now
Ban co so dien thoai cua bac si tu nao khong? Toi rat can: Do you have the number of a doctor? I really need it
Ban co on khong?: Are you okay?
Toi co the giup do ban nhu the nao?: How can I help you?
Toi dan bi dau/ toi bi om roi: I’m having this pain/ I’ve got sick
Toi can cai nay lam!: I need… please!
Is it hard to learn Vietnamese for people who speak English?
It can be tricky in the first place because the two languages are different from one another. You may have problems in pronunciation or sentence arrangements, or new words. However, it would become easier in the next period if you have practiced. After all, practice makes perfect!
Where do I start my journey of learning Vietnamese as my second language?
You can start learning Vietnamese from activities of watching and listening, imagine that you are like a baby, beginning his or her journey of learning a language. Through such activities, you can start to speak the most basic phrases and words, then sentences. Next, learn reading and writing, you should be fine!
Is it advisable to learn a new language?
It is definitely to learn a new language because it enhances your life experience, allows you to have more chances to travel and also job opportunities in life. So, why not? It is also fun and enables you to make a lot of new friends.