Having a few Vietnamese phrases in your repertoire will give you more confidence when traveling the country, and it may even help you make fun connections, receive better service and make life-long friendships.
The ten phrases below are ideal for anyone heading to Vietnam.
Learn These Vietnamese Phrases
Since becoming fluent in a language can take 2 years or longer, there's not a lot of point in learning the grammar or nuances, especially as Vietnamese, being a tonal language, can be very difficult to grasp for foreigners, especially Westerners.
Knowing the right phrases, however, can make all the difference between a difficult game of charades and getting to a toilet on time.
Especially for short holidays, basic phrases are all you need so the list below contains the phrase and its phonetic spelling to help you pronounce everything easier.
1. How to Say Hello in Vietnamese
The normal spelling for this phrase is: Xin chào
The phonetic spelling is: Sin chow
Whenever addressing locals, bear in mind that Vietnamese people are quieter when compared to other cultures so avoid talking in loud tones especially when speaking to strangers.
2. Thank You
The normal spelling for this phrase is: Xin cam on
The phonetic spelling is: Sin gahm un
It's also worth knowing that many regions in Vietnam alter where they place the intonation and emphasis of these phrases. So, if you hear locals saying these phrases slightly differently don't worry.
Just pronounce it as best as you can and they will likely understand what you are trying to say.
3. Where is the Toilet?
The normal spelling for this phrase is: Nha ve sinh o dau?
The phonetic spelling is: Neeya ve sin er-dow?
If you want to know where anything is, just know that 'o dau' is the part that means "where is". So if you can't think of the Vietnamese word you can always try the English and end it with 'o dau'.
For example, to ask where the hospital is you could simply say 'hospital o dau?"
If you have a map or something to point to, then you can gesture towards it and ask 'day la dau' (day er-dow) which simply means "where is this?"
4. How Are You?
The normal spelling for this phrase is: Ban khoe khong
The phonetic spelling is: Ban kwe khom
You may think learning this phrase is redundant because you won't understand the response if it's in Vietnamese. However, you may not realize just how easy it is to understand people based on their facial expression and tone alone.
Again, it's also possible they will be able to respond in English which will add to the joy of the exchange, and they will surely appreciate you taking the effort to ask them in Vietnamese, rather than English.
5. Can You Reduce the Price?
The normal spelling for this phrase is: Giam gia duoc khong?
The phonetic spelling is: Zam za duoc khom?
Vietnam is home to may wonderful local markets and stalls where vendors typically initially offer goods at prices two to three times more than what they are willing to sell for.
Haggling is perfectly normal so don't be afraid to ask this question a few times to lower the price. Often, once a merchant figures out you won't budge they will simply down to what they're happy to sell for anyway.
6. I Would Like to Have This
The normal spelling for this phrase is: Cho toi cai nay
The phonetic spelling is: Chor toi kah nai
The great thing about knowing this phrase is that it has multiple applications. You can use it while pointing at a menu or even while at a store and picking up items.
7. I Need to See a Doctor
The normal spelling for this phrase is: Toi can gap bac si
The phonetic spelling is: Toy can gap back szi
When traveling around the country, there may not always be a hospital nearby. That's why learning this phrase ensure you can get taken to the nearest person who can help.
8. Help Me
The normal spelling for this phrase is: Cuu toi voi
The phonetic spelling is: Coo toy vuyh
Don't think that this phrase only has to be used in emergencies. It can be very useful if you are struggling with luggage because of an injury or if you need assistance in a store or while traveling.
Again, local people will probably understand why you are saying this phrase because of the context and by how you gesture.
9. I am Vegetarian
The normal spelling for this phrase is: Toi an chay
The phonetic spelling is: Toy an chayh
While this phrase doesn't apply to everyone, it is crucial for anyone with this diet. Vietnam has many wonderful foods to try but many can contain meat or fish so this is a great way to isolate what's available to you.
The normal spelling for this phrase is: Xin loi
The phonetic spelling is: Sin loy
When you're traveling throughout a new country that has vastly different cultural norms and expectations, it's perfectly normal to make mistakes.
But even so, sometimes locals may mistake your actions for rudeness or provocation. That's why knowing how to say sorry in Vietnamese can help you easily clarify the situation to others and let them know your actions were an accident.
When it comes to the basics, there really is not that many Vietnamese phrases you need to learn. For that exact reason, before you leave, make sure you repeat all of the phrases and practice them until they are second nature.
It won't take a lot of time but will make communication and getting around so much easier and faster, and the locals are sure to appreciate the effort.
If you're interested in an authentic Vietnam experience then check out our tours or go to our blog for more helpful travel advice.