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Lesson Transcript

Xin chào, tôi là Giang. Hi everybody! I’m Giang.
Welcome to VietnamesePod101.com’s “3 phút học tiếng Việt”. The fastest, easiest, and most fun way to learn Vietnamese.
In the last lesson, we learned the most common forms of greetings in Vietnamese. Do you remember them?
In this lesson we’re going to learn a very useful phrase: “Do you speak English?”
If you find yourself in a situation where you need assistance in English, this phrase can be a lifesaver. And because you’re asking it in Vietnamese, you can be sure that everyone will understand what you’re saying, even if their answer is “no”.
First, here's the informal way to say it:
Bạn có biết nói tiếng Anh không?
[slowly] Bạn có biết nói tiếng Anh không?
Let’s break it down. Bạn is the equivalent of “you” in Vietnamese. But as I mentioned in previous lessons, the Vietnamese language has a complicated system of pronouns, and the way you address the person you’re speaking to depends on gender, age, and how close a relationship you have with him or her. Bạn is the most general pronoun you can use in this case because it can refer to someone younger than you, someone about your age, or someone several years older than you.
Có biết nói literally means “knows how to speak” and tiếng Anh means “English”. So the sentence can literally be translated as “Do you know how to speak English?” or “Can you speak English?”
Finally, did you notice the last word of the question? Không literally means “No” in Vietnamese, but when it is added at the end of a statement, a yes/no question is formed. It is a grammatical point that you will learn in more detail later.
Now let’s practice the question one more time.
Bạn có biết nói tiếng Anh không?
We’re now going to make this sentence formal. It’s very simple. You just need to add two more words at the beginning of the previous question, keeping the rest unchanged.
Xin hỏi, bạn có biết nói tiếng Anh không?
[slowly] Xin hỏi, bạn có biết nói tiếng Anh không?
Xin hỏi means exactly the same as “Excuse me?” When you add these words at the beginning of any question, it becomes more polite.
The responses you will receive could be any one of these three:
Có. "Yes."
[slowly] Có.
Một chút thôi. "A little.”
[slowly] Một chút thôi.
Không, tôi không biết nói tiếng Anh. "No, I don’t speak English."
[slowly] Không, tôi không biết nói tiếng Anh.
Since this last one is a negative statement, the verb is opposite to the verb used in the question. The question asks “do you know” (có biết) and the answer is “don’t know” (không biết). The subject has also been changed from Bạn (“you”) to tôi (“I”) and the question word at the end, không, is omitted. Again, the complete answer is: Không, tôi không biết nói tiếng Anh (“No, I don’t speak English”.)
Now it’s time for Giang’s Insights.
If you still remember the list of pronouns I mentioned in the last lessons, you can choose a suitable pronoun for the person you’re talking to instead of using Bạn in the question. But when you’re talking to an older person, the word ạ is added at the end of the question to show respect.
For example:
Anh có biết nói tiếng Anh không ạ? (To a man a few years older)
Chị có biết nói tiếng Anh không ạ? (To a woman a few years older)
Bác có biết nói tiếng Anh không ạ? (To an uncle)
In this lesson we mentioned the expression Xin hỏi, which means “excuse me” . But do you know how to say “sorry” in Vietnamese? In the next lesson we will learn this and other ways to apologize in Vietnamese. It’s never too late to show your good manners with Vietnamese people!
I'll see you in our next 3 phút học tiếng Việt lesson.
Hẹn gặp lại!