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Lesson Transcript

Giang: Hi everyone. Welcome back to VietnamesePod101.com. I’m Giang!
Jason: And I’m Jason. This is the All About series, Lesson 12 Top 5 Tips for Avoiding Common Mistakes in Vietnamese.
GIang: Listeners, you're in for some useful tips in this lesson.
Jason: That's right, we're here to give you some tips on how to avoid common mistakes made by learners of Vietnamese.
Giang: Now remember, nothing is wrong with making mistakes. It's how you learn!
Jason: We just want you to be aware of some common mistakes, then try to avoid them. It will make your Vietnamese language learning experience a lot easier! So let's get started!

Lesson focus

Giang: Tip number one –
Jason: Don't raise your voice for a yes or no question!
Giang: It's very different from English, so please be aware.
Jason: Vietnamese is a tonal language, but there is nothing like word stress or sentence intonation. Foreigners learning Vietnamese tend to raise their voice a little at the end of a yes or no question as they do in English. But Vietnamese never do that.
Giang: Questions can be recognized by the words, instead of intonation. So keep your voice at the average level when saying any type of sentence in Vietnamese. Let me give you an example.
Jason: Great. Try saying “Do you like fish?”
Giang: In Vietnamese, that sentence is “Bạn có thích ăn cá không?” Did you notice my tone of voice? Just like saying a statement. No up or down.
Jason: Now the second tip. Don’t pronounce final consonants.
Giang: Vietnamese words do have final consonants, but they are not pronounced.
Jason: Right. A Vietnamese word is basically composed of 4 parts - an initial consonant, vowels, final consonants and a tone mark. However, only the vowels are the essential parts. The others can be optional.
Giang: The final consonants of a word can contain one or two letters. And remember that they are silent.
Jason: Giang, what is their function?
Giang: The final consonant can be combined with the vowels right before it to make a complete sound.
Jason: Could you give us an example?
Giang: Sure. For instance, the word “thích” which means “to like”. It is written as “t-h-i-c-h” and has a high rising tone mark above the letter “i”. The final consonants are “ch” but they are not pronounced like “ch” in the word “rich” in English. They are completely silent. They go with letter “i” to make one sound, “ich”
Jason: Oh I see. It’s easy for English speakers to make this mistake because it’s our habit to pronounce the final consonant.
Giang: Yes, and that’s why we should mention it here in this lesson!
Jason: Right. Now, tip number three - Learn basic classifiers. In English, when we want to say how many items are there, we simply add a number before a noun. But in Vietnamese, the entire noun phrase should contain a number, then a classifier and finally a noun.
Giang: English speakers tend to forget the classifier and use number with the noun only.
Jason: It sounds strange to native speakers, so knowing at least some basic classifiers is essential.
Giang: Right. So I’ll mention three basic classifiers and how to use them. Firstly, “cái” is the general classifier for objects. When talking about an object, you say the number first, then say “cái” and finally the noun indicating that object.
Jason: How can we say “two cakes”?
Giang: Hai cái bánh. Hai means “two”, cái is the classifier and bánh is “cake”
Jason: What about “three umbrellas”?
Giang: Ba cái ô. “Ba” means three, “cái” is the classifier and ô is “umbrella”
Jason: What is the general classifier for animals?
Giang: That’s the second one I want to mention now. It is “con”. For example, “one chicken” in Vietnamese is “một con gà”. “một” means “one”, “con” is the classifier and “gà” means “chicken”.
Jason: Ok, and the last one?
Giang: “Quyển”. It is the classifier for books, notebooks and the like. “hai quyển sách” means “two books”. “Hai” means “two”, “quyển” is the classifier and “sách” means “book”
Jason: What about for people?
Giang: Ah, that’s an exception. No classifier is needed for people. For example “ba người” means “three people”. It is exactly the same in English.
Jason: All right. So there are at least 3 basic classifiers our listeners should remember, right?
Giang: Yes. Now let’s continue with the next tip.
Jason: Learn the pronunciation now.
Giang: Yes. Don’t delay. Pronunciation is a hard part of Vietnamese. It doesn't matter how well you know the grammar. If you don't pronounce it right, it will be hard to understand.
Jason: And we have a complete pronunciation series that will be introduced right after we finish this All About series. I’m sure you’ll have a lot of fun studying Vietnamese pronunciation with us!
Giang: That’s right! And the last tip we want to mention is...
Jason: Be careful when using personal pronouns
As we’ve learned, using personal pronouns are very important in Vietnam, so using an inappropriate one may sound rude. Using the wrong pronoun is also a common mistake among foreigners learning Vietnamese.
Giang: It may sound strange, but that’s why Vietnamese people usually ask each other’s age when they first meet. It is because they want to choose the appropriate pronoun to address the other person.
Jason: So don’t feel offended, it has nothing to do with being nosy. Take it easy and get familiar with questions about age. And of course you can feel free to ask about a Vietnamese person’s age too, to avoid using the wrong pronouns.
Giang: Yes, good idea.


Jason: All right! Well, these were our top five tips for avoiding common mistakes in Vietnamese.
Giang: Keep these in mind and your Vietnamese learning experience will be made a lot easier!
Jason: And you'll be right on track!
Giang: See you next time, everyone!


Please to leave a comment.
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VietnamesePod101.com Verified
Wednesday at 12:00 PM
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Hi everyone!

Seem the pronunciation is crucial!

Let's practice more!

VietnamesePod101.com Verified
Monday at 11:51 AM
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Hello fj,

Thank you for your comment.

Yes, Vietnamese ending consonant is not finished. For example, "sát" - ending with "t" but we do not pronounce "t", "sách" - ending with "ch" but we do not pronounce "ch".

Best regards,

Nguyet Nguyen

Team VietnamesePod101.com

Sunday at 12:00 AM
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I wouldn’t say “final consonants are not pronounced” either. But from my experience it helps to think of it this way.

They are pronounced, but not “finished”. If you say “sat” or “sack” (similar to aidriano’s examples) in English, the final consonants “make much noise” because they are fully pronounced, just as if they were at the beginning of the syllable. In Vietnamese mouth and tongue “get into position” for the consonant, but then air is closed off and nothing much happens sound-wise.

Wednesday at 06:33 PM
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I don't think that is possible! If the final consonant is "silent", then the pronunciation of e.g. sát and sách would be exactly the same. Clearly they are not. Similarly, it is obvious that the "nh" in anh is clearly audible, the "m" in em is clearly audible and so on.

VietnamesePod101.com Verified
Wednesday at 11:17 AM
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Hi aidriano,

Thank you very much for your suggestion.

However, the final consonant sound is actually silent and when we don't pronounce it at all.

You are right to say that "don't separate the final consonant from its preceding vowels". We don't separate it and don't pronounce it either. The combination of the preceding vowel and the final consonant makes one unique sound.



Team VietnamesePod101.com

Thursday at 06:53 PM
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Can I also suggest that "don't pronounce the final consonant" is, perhaps, poorly worded. Maybe "When pronouncing a word, don't separate the final consonant from its preceding vowels" might be a better way of putting it? ("Don't pronounce the final consonant" gives the impression that the final consonant is silent).

VietnamesePod101.com Verified
Wednesday at 06:42 PM
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Hi aidriano,

Thank you for your feedback. This is the introduction series, so we just mention everything in the most general way. If you study the lessons in the absolute beginner and lower intermediate series, you'll find that we explain each classifier in more detail with specific examples. We do not explain all classifiers in one lesson, but we put each of them in a daily conversation and explain its usage so that learners will be able to figure out how it is used in real life.



Team VietnamesePod101.com

Monday at 07:29 PM
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For me, classifiers is one of the most difficult parts of Vietnamese to come to grips with. It is somewhat disappointing that VietnamesePod 101 seems to assume that everyone knows what a classifier is, when it should be used, which classifier is appropriate for which noun etc. Classifiers are surely deserving of a full detailed stand-alone lesson?