Common Vietnamese Phrases: Exploring Vietnam’s Enchanting Language and Culture

IndochinaMotorcycleTour

Last Update 22 Apr 2024

Vietnamese can seem tricky with its tones and 29-letter alphabet, especially for beginners. But don’t worry! You don’t have to master it all for a short visit to Vietnam. Learning some basic Vietnamese phrases is a real advantage for travelers. It helps you connect with locals, discover hidden treasures, experience warm hospitality, and even snag discounts. Indochina Motorcycle Tours suggests some common Vietnamese phrases every motorbike traveler should grasp. Just focus on the basics, then you are good to go!

Essential Phrases for Everyday Interactions

These basic Vietnamese phrases to greet, question, and express gratitude are good enough for beginners yet polite and good enough to impress the locals. 

Vietnamese greetings phrases

Like many other Asian countries, hugging or kissing someone you meet for the first time isn’t common in Vietnam. It might make people, especially the older generation, feel uncomfortable. But don’t worry! Vietnamese folks are open to learning new customs. You can introduce hugging or kissing gradually after explaining it to them. Motorbike travelers can opt for a friendly wave or handshake and some common Vietnamese phrases for their first meeting.

English Phrase

Common Vietnamese Phrases

Approximate English Pronunciation

Hello

Xin chào

Seen chow (-ow in “cow”)

What’s your name?

Bạn tên gì?

Bahn thene zee

My name is…

Tôi tên là

Toy ten la

Goodbye

Tạm biệt

Tam bee-it

Excuse me

Cho tôi hỏi

cho toy hoi

How are you?

Bạn khỏe không?

ban kwae kaung

Where are you from?

Bạn đến từ đâu? 

ban den to dough

I’m from…

Tôi đến từ…

toi den too

Essential questions in Vietnamese

When traveling in Vietnam, knowing specific phrases is crucial. These phrases allow you to answer basic questions and express essential sentiments like yes, no, and thank you. Below are some common Vietnamese phrases that every motorbike enthusiast should have in their repertoire, especially motorbike enthusiasts exploring the country.

English Phrase

Common Vietnamese Phrases

Approximate English Pronunciation

What’s your name?

Bạn tên gì?

Bahn thene zee

How are you?

Bạn khỏe không?

ban kwae kaung

Where are you from?

Bạn đến từ đâu? 

ban den to dough

What do you do?

Bạn làm gì?

Bahn lahm zee?

Expressing Gratitude and Appreciation phrases

In Vietnam, showing politeness and gratitude is highly valued. Expressing genuine appreciation is a significant part of Vietnamese culture. Below are some common Vietnamese phrases to convey gratitude and appreciation, essential for motorbike lovers immersed in local culture.

English Phrase

Common Vietnamese Phrases

Approximate English Pronunciation

Thank you

Cảm ơn

Kam earn

You’re welcome

Không có gì

Khong co zee

Thank you very much 

Cảm ơn rất nhiều 

Gahm un rat nyew

Excuse me, …/Sorry

Xin lỗi

Seen loy

Some essential Vietnamese phrases that will come in handy for everyday interactions

Some essential Vietnamese phrases that will come in handy for everyday interactions

Building Your Vocabulary

To expand your basic Vietnamese vocabulary, let’s familiarize ourselves with basic Vietnamese words and phrases for each category outlined in this section.

Numbers

Mastering Vietnamese numbers is simple. Once you grasp numbers 1-10, you can easily count up to 99. Unlike English, Vietnamese numbers above ten are formed by combining the digits. For instance, 25 is expressed as “hai mươi lăm,” which directly translates to “twenty-five.”

English Phrase

Common Vietnamese Phrases

Approximate English Pronunciation

1

Một 

moat

2

Hai

high

3

Ba

bah

4

Bốn

bone

5

Năm

nom

6

Sáu

shao

7

Bảy

by

8

Tám

tom

9

Chín

chin

10

Mười

mooy

Hundred 

Trăm

charm

Thousand 

Nghìn

ngeen

Currency 

Đồng

dong

Directions

Navigating Vietnamese traffic is often an eye-opening experience for first-time motorbike travelers. With scooters dominating the streets, exploring the city on two wheels is a must-try adventure. Additionally, public transportation and modern ride-hailing apps offer convenient alternatives. Learning these essential phrases will assist your driver in navigating to your desired destination.

English Phrase

Common Vietnamese Phrases

Approximate English Pronunciation

Where is the taxi rank?

Taxi ở đâu?

Taxis are dauh?

Where is the ATM?

Máy ATM ở đâu?

May ATM urn dole

Go Straight 

Đi thẳng

Di Thaang

Go Left 

Rẽ trái

Re chai

Go Right

Rẽ phải

Re five

Straight ahead

Trước mặt

chuh mat

Stop 

Dừng lại

Duhng laai

Go to the airport

Đi sân bay

Di sun bay

Can I have a map?

Cho tôi một cái bản đồ 

chor toi mot cai ban dor

How far is it

Bao xa

Bao seh

Far 

Xa

seh

Close

Gần 

Gunh

Downtown

Trung tâm thành phố

Trumh tam tan fo

District

Quận

Wung

Station

Ga tàu

Ga

Bus stop

Trạm xe bus

Tram seh butt

Where?

Ở đâu

uh dow?

Wait 5 minutes

Chờ năm phút

Churhn nam foot

How do I get to…

Làm sao tôi đến được…

lam sao toi den duok

Airport

Sân bay/phi trường 

The first phrase is used in North Vietnam, while the second one is used in the South.

san bay/ fee cheu-uhng

Street/road

Đường 

dew-uhng

Navigating Vietnamese traffic can be quite an eye-opening experience

Navigating Vietnamese traffic can be quite an eye-opening experience

Common Words and Phrases

It’s essential to inquire about the price before making any purchase or using a service to avoid being overcharged. Additionally, familiarizing yourself with the market prices of items you intend to buy before shopping is advisable. This knowledge will also boost your confidence when bargaining to secure a good deal.

English Phrase

Common Vietnamese Phrases

Approximate English Pronunciation

How much?

Bao nhiêu?

Baow nyew

Too expensive

Mắc quá

Mac wa

Can you reduce the price?

Bớt được không?

Boat duoc khom

Do you want to sell?

Có bán không? 

cor ban kohm?

I want to buy 

Tôi muốn mua 

Toi mu-on mua

One size larger

Một size lớn hơn

Mot size lunh hunh

One size smaller 

Một size nhỏ hơn

Mot size nyunh hunh

You are so pretty 

Em đẹp quá 

Em dep wah

You are so handsome

Anh đẹp trai quá

Anh dep wah

Help me

Cứu (tôi) với

gih-oo (thoy) vuh-y

I don’t understand

Tôi không hiểu

toi kaung heeyau

I can’t speak Vietnamese.

Tôi không biết nói tiếng Việt 

toi kaung byet noy tyeng vyet

Call the police

Gọi cảnh sát

Goy kann sat

Where is the toilet?

Cầu tiêu ở đâu? 

koh tee-oh uh doh

I’m lost.

Tôi bị lạc 

toi bee lack

I need a doctor.

Tôi cần một bác sĩ 

toy kuhn moht back see

I’m vegetarian.

Tôi ăn chay

toi an chai

I’m vegan.

Tôi thuần chay

toi twan chai

I can’t eat…

Tôi không thể ăn… 

toi kaung tei an

How much is it?

Bao nhiêu tiền

bahw ngew tee-uhn

The check, please.

Thanh toán tiền

tain toan tee-uhn

It was delicious!

Ngon lắm 

ngawn luhm

Note: *One cheeky but practical tip for getting the best price is complimenting local vendors. If you say something nice like, “You are so pretty”, they may be more willing to negotiate a lower price for you.

Inquire about the price before making any purchase

Inquire about the price before making any purchase

It’s often said that humor is a universal language. Let’s put that to the test with this collection of funny Vietnamese phrases. You will use these basic Vietnamese words just before downing your beer in a bar or when you want to express your anger or desire to party light-heartedly. Most are considered slang, so they shouldn’t be used in formal contexts. But mastering them can help you blend in like a true local during your travels, which you can refer to this table:

English Phrase

Common Vietnamese Phrases

Approximate English Pronunciation

I am purple. 

(No worries, nobody will actually think you’re turning purple. This phrase simply signifies that you’re extremely angry about something.)

Giận tím người

zan-tim-noy

100%. 

(You’d use it as a drinking toast, similar to “cheers” or “skol,” right before you down your entire drink at a bar!)

Trăm phần trăm 

cham-phun-cham

Bo tay.

It signifies giving up and letting go. You won’t win this one, so it’s time to drop everything and move on.

Bó tay

bo-tay

Cuoc song ma.

The Vietnamese equivalent of the French “c’est la vie”, means “that’s life.” This phrase is inspired by a well-known pop song.

Cuộc sống mà

Kook-song-ma

Tre trau.

It is originally the term for a young water buffalo. Still, it has evolved into slang for a young and reckless individual, often implying a lack of respect for authority or elders.

Trẻ trâu 

Chey-chow

Several funny Vietnamese phrases

Several funny Vietnamese phrases

Delving Deeper into Vietnamese

Vietnamese is consistent mainly across Vietnam, allowing basic words and phrases to be used throughout the country. However, slight variations in accent, pronunciation, and vocabulary vary depending on the region visited. Local dialects differing significantly from standard Vietnamese may prevail in rural or remote areas.

As the official language, Vietnamese is spoken by approximately 90% of Vietnam’s population. The country’s dialects are broadly categorized into northern, southern, and central. Other commonly spoken languages include English, Khmer, Chinese, and French.

Exploring Vietnamese in-depth beyond the basic ones

Exploring Vietnamese in-depth beyond the basic ones

For native English motorbikers, Vietnamese presents a challenge due to its tonal nature, where pronunciation can drastically alter meaning. Mastering this aspect often requires years of practice and immersion in the local culture, beyond what textbooks offer.

While over 50% of Vietnamese people can communicate in English, knowing some local phrases before arriving in cities like Ho Chi Minh or Hanoi is beneficial. This ensures that your dietary preferences are understood when ordering food and improves your ability to negotiate better prices for tours, taxis, and other services.

>>> For more details, Let’s read: Vietnamese Food Delights: 21 Must-Try Dishes for a Tasty Experience

Conclusion

Feel free to use our Vietnamese basic words and phrases during your visit to Vietnam. Vietnamese people are friendly and will appreciate your efforts, even if you only know a few words. Utilizing both verbal and body language can enhance communication as a motorbike traveler.

We hope these common Vietnamese phrases and tips help you connect with locals and make your experience in Vietnam more enjoyable. Have you used any of these phrases while traveling in Vietnam? Do you have suggestions for alternate pronunciations or additional phrases to add to this list?

We’d love to hear from you. Join Vietnam adventure motorcycle riding by Indochina Motorcycle Tours for an unforgettable adventure through Vietnam’s stunning landscapes and vibrant culture. Book your tour today and ride with the experts!

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