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Lesson Transcript

Jason: Hi everyone, I’m Jason, and welcome back to the All About Series on VietnamesePod101.com! This is Lesson 4 Basic Vietnamese Pronunciation. In this lesson, we'll show you how easy it is to start speaking Vietnamese.
Giang: That's because we will be focusing on pronunciation. Hi everyone, I’m Giang!

Lesson focus

Jason: Vietnamese is a tonal language, so to perfect your pronunciation, you should learn how to pronounce words with tone marks. Now, before we look at the tones, let’s review the Vietnamese alphabet. How many letters are there in the alphabet again, Giang?
Giang: There are 29 letters total, including 22 letters that are also used in English, and 7 additional letters with diacritics.
Jason: Right! And one more thing, out of 29 letters, there are 17 consonants and 12 vowels, together with additional compounds derived from them.
Giang: Exactly.
Jason: For more on how these sounds are pronounced, please be sure to check out the Pronunciation lessons that are part of this Introduction series. In this lesson, we’ll be focusing on the tones found in Vietnamese, since they’re a very important part of pronunciation.
Giang: Yes. There are 6 main tones in Vietnamese:
1 unmarked, and 5 marked tones, which are called diacritical tones.
Jason: And they are classified into 2 groups - even tones and slant tones. The unmarked and gradual falling tones belong to the first group while the rest, “high rising, mid dipping falling, broken rising and heavy falling tones”, belong to the second group.
Giang: Please note that tone marks are only applied above or below the vowels, not the consonants. The best way for beginners to practice these tones is to listen to a native speaker.
Jason: Okay, so show us your standard pronunciation, Giang.
Giang: All right. Let’s practice saying each tone with the simplest words. Please repeat after me.
Jason: First, the unmarked tone... This is is a mid level tone. So you start at the middle of your normal voice range then remain at the same level.
Giang: For example a [pause], ba [pause], me [pause], đi [pause].
Jason: Secondly, the gradual falling tone... You start at a fairly low level and gradually lower your voice to the lowest level.
Giang: For example à [pause], bà [pause], cò [pause], nè [pause].
Jason: Thirdly, the high rising tone... You start at the middle level of your voice range then raise your voice to the highest level.
Giang: For example á [pause], cá [pause], té [pause], nó [pause].
Jason: Now, the fourth tone – the mid-dipping falling tone... You begin at the middle of your voice range and lower it quickly.
Giang: For example ả [pause], bỏ [pause], kẻ [pause], phở [pause].
Jason: The next one broken rising tone. Start just a little above the normal voice range, dip down a bit then raise it suddenly.
Giang: For example mã [pause], rẽ [pause], kỹ [pause], võ [pause].
Jason: And finally, the heavy falling tone. Start just a little below the middle range, then fall immediately and suddenly to the lowest level. You’ll feel the constriction of the glottis when your voice falls suddenly. Try pronouncing this tone while gradually lowering your head as if you are nodding suddenly.
Giang: For example ạ [pause], mẹ [pause], vị [pause], chị [pause].


Jason: Okay everyone, how did you do?
Giang: We’ll leave it there for today. I hope you all found it fun learning about Vietnamese pronunciation!
Jason: Keep in mind that listening and repeating is really the key to improving your pronunciation.
Giang: Listen to and copy native speakers as much as you can.
Jason: Please join us again when we take a closer look at some must-know Vietnamese phrases
Giang: Thanks and see you next time!