I wish I could say I’ve been awesome with my Vietnamese language studies, but that’s not really the case. While I have Vietnamese language class weekly, I’ve just been lazy to do much independent study outside of class. There’s really no excuse. I definitely have time to study. I’m sorry you guys, I’ll try to do better.
I’m entering my 4th month in Vietnam and so far I can order food, ask what you want to eat, what you’re currently eating, if you’ve eaten yet, your name, age, how you’re doing, how many people are in your family, if you have a boyfriend/girlfriend, and I can respond to those questions if someone were to ask me. Probably the most useful of my language skills so far is being able to order food, ask for the check, and be able to understand the amount of money I’m supposed to pay. The second most useful thing is asking people if they have a boyfriend or girlfriend. Okay, actually, that’s not that useful, but it’s really funny and my university students immediately loosen up when I ask them that question.
Vietnamese is a tonal language and if you’re planning on getting serious about learning than of course you’ll need to learn all the tones, but if you’re just visiting and saying simple words and phrases, most locals will be able to understand you.
In any case, if you’re planning on going to Vietnam and don’t want to rely merely on your body language skills, I’ve got you. I plan on doing a bunch of posts of “survival” Vietnamese so keep a look out for future posts.
First though, you should learn your numbers.
1– một (pronounced moat – but don’t pronounce the t hard)
2– hai (hi)
3– ba (baah)
4– bốn (bone)
6– sáu (sow)
7– bảy (by)
8– tám (tahm)
9– chín (gin)
After 10, you will say the word for 10 first and then the next digit:
11– mười một
It’s the same for 11-19 except 15, there’s an exception, where it’s pronounced:
15– mười lăm (Instead of năm)
When you get to 20, 30, 40, etc. You say the first digit first and then add 10 after it.
20– hai mươi or hai chục (mươi is pronounced without a tone if you want to get technical. Chục is pronounced j-uh-c. Both mươi and chục are correct. Where I live now in the Mekong, chục is more common)
30– ba mươi or ba chục
50– năm mươi
And so on until you get to 100.
21-29 are easy. Just say the word for 2 (hai) the word for 10 (mươi) and then the next digit. For example:
21– hai mươi mốt
25– hai mươi lăm
This works for 31-39, 41-49, 51-59, etc.
When you get to 100, you say the first digit and then the word for 100.
100– một trăm (jum)
When you get to the thousands, you say the first digit and then the word for thousand. For example:
1,000– một ngàn (ngaang) or một nghìn (ngeen)
2,000– hai ngàn or hai nghìn