Meanderings of an Amateur Linguist

Just me and my languages – a dangerous combonation

Vietnamese: Lesson 1 / Tiếng Việt: Bài Một

Posted by ILuvEire on November 23, 2008

1 Pronunciation

Consonants:

Quổc Ngũ Letter Sound Name
B ɓ – a regular b, but it sounds like you’re trying to swallow it
C k
Ch c – say cute
D j – sounds like the English y
Đ ɗ – sounds like a normal d, just try to swallow it đê
G ɣ – pronounced similar to the word loch but voiced giê
Gi j – like English y. The i is silent unless it’s the only vowel
H h hát
K k ka
Kh x – say loch or kʰ – k with air coming out.
L l e-lờ
M m em-mờ
N n en-nờ
Nh ɲ – onion
Ng/Ngh ŋ – sing
P p – be careful not to aspirate
Ph f
Qu kw – always spelled with a u quy
R ʐ – put your mouth in the position to say r, but say z instead. er-rờ
S ʂ – put your mouth in the position to say y, but say s instead. ét-sì
T t – careful not to aspirate!
Th tʰ – English t with extra air after it
Tr ʈ – put your tongue in position to say r, but say t instead
V j – like English y
X s ích-xi

The consonants aren’t so bad. There are very few consonant clusters, so it’s no big deal.

Vowels:

Quổc Ngũ Letter Pronunciation
A ɐ – pronounced like cat (In American English) but a little farther back in the mouth
Ă a – father
 ə – about
E ɛ day without the y-sound at the end
Ê e – dead
I i – me
O ɔ bought
Ô o – no
Ơ ɤ – pronounced just like ô, but with your lips un-rounded.
U u – moo
Ư ɯ – NOT W, pronounced just like U but without the rounded lips.
Y i – me

Remember, Ă, Â, Ê, Ô, Ư, and Ơ are all separate letters, not just A, E, O, or U with a diacritic.

Y and I are the exact same. Usually Y is used for Sino-Vietnamese vocabulary (vocabulary from Chinese), but it can be used more or less randomly. Like, for example, America is Mỹ. Why? Who knows?
Now for the hardest part of the language:

Tones:

Tone name in English Tone name in Vietnamese What’s it look like? Example – Definition
Level Không dấu (no marking) aăâeêioôơuưy ma – ghost
High Rising dấu sắ ̣(áćút́é áććéńt́) áắấéếíóốớúứý má – cheek
Low/falling dấu huyền ̣̀(g̀r̀àv̀è àc̀c̀èǹt̀) àằầèềìòồờùừỳ mà – but
Dipping/rising dấu hỏi ̉(h̉ỏỏk̉) ảẳẩẻểỉỏổởủửỷ mả – tomb
High rising glottalized dấu ngũ ̃(t̃ĩld̃ẽ) ãẵẫẽễĩõỗỡũữỹ mã – horse
Low glottalized dấu nạng ̣(ḍọṭ ḅẹḷọẉ) ạặậẹệịọộợụựỵ mạ – rice seedling

I think this is all for now. Soon I’ll have a lesson two up (as well as hopefully lessons in other languages!)
Chào!

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