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Lesson Transcript

Giang: Hi everyone, welcome back to Vietnamesepod101.com. I’m Giang.
Jason: And I’m Jason. This is Pronunciation Series, lesson 2 Basic Vietnamese Vowels and Diphthongs. So listeners, did you practice the sounds from lesson one? We hope that you’ve all got a much better idea of Vietnamese consonant sounds.

Lesson focus

Giang: And we have more sounds for you in this lesson – the vowel sounds!
Jason: In this lesson, firstly we’re going to learn these single vowel sounds. Then in the second part, we’ll introduce the Vietnamese diphthongs, which are sounds created by combining 2 single vowel letters. We highly recommend you use the lesson notes as you listen to get a better idea of the sounds we are talking about.
Giang: Let’s get started with the single vowels.
Jason: As we have learned, there are 12 single vowels, which create 11 vowel sounds. We will first learn the vowels that exist in English.
Giang: All right, here we go. In Vietnamese, “A” is pronounced [a: ]. “E” is pronounced [e]. “I” and “y” have the same sound, they are both pronounced [i: ]. Finally, “o” is pronounced [o].
Jason: Please check the lesson notes for specific examples of how their sounds are similar to English. Now, let’s look at the vowels that are unfamiliar with English speakers.
Giang: The unfamiliar vowels are the ones with marks. The first one - ă [á] is written as “a” with a crescent above, and pronounced like the vowel in....
Jason: “Cut”
Giang: Some examples are “chăn” meaning “blanket” or “khăn” meaning “scarf”
Jason: Next is ...
Giang: â [ớ] is written as “a” with a caret or an upside down “v” above, and also pronounced closely like the vowel in....
Jason: “Cut”, but shorter
Giang: For example, “sân” meaning “yard” or “cân” meaning “scale”
Jason: And number three...
Giang: ê [eh] is written as “e” with a caret above and pronounced almost like the vowels in...
Jason: “Main”
Giang: For example, “chê” meaning “to criticize” or “to undervalue”.
Jason: Ok, number four..
Giang: ô [ô] written as “o” in English with a caret above, and pronounced almost like the vowel in …
Jason: “Low” but without the “w”
Giang: For example, “bố” meaning “father” and “xô” meaning “a bucket”
Jason: And Number five...
Giang: ơ [ơ] is “o” in English with a hook on the top right side and pronounced like the vowel in...
Jason: “Fur”
Giang: For example “bơ” meaning “butter”.
Jason: And the last one...
Giang: ư is pronounced like “u”, but your lips are unrounded, as if you are grinning ư... For example “nữ” meaning “female”.
Jason: All right. That’s all we have for the single vowels. Now we’ll continue with the diphthongs, of which there are 29 in total.
Giang: Yes, most single vowels can be combined with one or a few other vowels to create a diphthong.
Jason: Let’s look at them one by one. Don’t forget to look at Table 1 in the lesson notes as you listen. We’ll explain how they are combined with each other first, then how they are pronounced.
Giang: You can see some diphthongs are written in red in table 1, and they are exceptions.
Jason: So except for the ones written in red, the sound of a Vietnamese diphthong is created by first pronouncing the first and the second vowel separately, then gradually increasing the speed until you can hear them combined in one sound. Now, Giang will show you how to do this. Please listen carefully.
Giang: All right. Let’s get started. Look at the first row of Table 1, with a [a] taking the first position.
a combined with i ngắn, give us “ai”. a...i...ai.
Next, a combined with o, gives us “ao” a...o...ao.
Now, a combined with u, gives us “au” a...u...au.
And lastly a combined with i dài, gives us “ay”. “ay” is basically the same as “ai” in terms of separate single vowel sounds. But in “ai”, a is lengthened [a i], while in “ay”, a is shortened and [i] sound is lengthened [ai ]
Jason: Now, in the second row, you can see no diphthongs are created, because ă never takes the first position in a diphthong.
Giang: That’s right. Now look at the third row, â as the first position. We have two diphthongs.
â combined with u, gives us “âu”.
Secondly, â combined with i dài gives us “ây”.
Giang: Continue with the fourth row, e [e] taking the first position. We have only one diphthong e and o, which gives us “eo” e...o...eo
The next row, ê at the first position. Here there’s also only one diphthong ê and u, which gives us “êu” ê...u...êu.
Jason: Ok, what’s next?
Giang: The sixth row i [i ] ngắn taking the first position. Firstly, i combined with a, gives us “ia” i...a...ia.
Secondly, a special one i combined with ê, gives us “iê”. This diphthong has no definite sound when standing alone.
Giang: The seventh row o [o] taking the first position. Firstly, o combined with a, gives us “oa” o...a...oa.
Secondly, o combined with ă, creates no definite sound when standing alone.
Thirdly, o combined with e, gives us “oe” o..e..oe
Next, o combined with i ngắn, gives us “oi” o..i..oi.
Finally, o combined with another o, creates no definite sound when standing alone.
Giang: The eighth row ô as the first position. We have only one diphthong ô combined with i ngắn ô...i...ôi.. ôi
Giang: The next row, ơ taking the first position also has only one diphthong. ơ combined with i ngắn, we have “ơi” ơ...i....ơi
Jason: Ok, we’re almost done!
Giang: Just a few more! Row number 10 u taking the first position, we have the highest number of diphthongs in this row.
Firstly, u combined with a, gives us “ua” u...a...ua
Secondly, u combined with â, creates no definite sound when standing alone.
Thirdly, u combined with ê, gives us “uê” u...ê...uê
Fourthly, u combined with i ngắn, gives us “ui” u...i...ui
Next, u combined with ô, creates no definite sound when standing alone.
Then, u combined with ơ, gives us “uơ” u...ơ...uơ”
Finally, u combined with i dài, gives us “uy”, very much like “we” in English.
Giang: Now, we are getting to the final row of Table 1 ư taking the first position.
First, ư combined with a, gives us “ưa” ư...a...ưa
Second, ư combined with i ngắn, gives us “ưi” ư...i...ưi
Third, ư combined with ơ, creates no definite sound when standing alone.
Finally, ư combined with u, gives us “ưu” ư...u...ưu...ưu
Jason: Phew! All right. We’ve covered all 29 diphthongs in Vietnamese. Don’t worry if you can’t remember all of them right away. Take your time with them!
Giang: Right, and please don’t forget to read the accompanying lesson notes carefully, because they provide all the details and explanations.


Jason: And if you have any questions or comments, drop by VietnamesePod101.com. Thanks for joining us, and we’ll see you again in the next lesson about Vietnamese Tones.
Giang: See you next time!


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

If you have any questions about the pronunciation, feel free to let us know here.

VietnamesePod101.com Verified
Sunday at 11:15 PM
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Hi David,

Thank you for your post.

Yes, I think pronouncing ă kinda same with a but shorter is a correct way as well.

About â and ơ, when they stand alone, they can be pronounced kinda same. But when put them in a word, just make sure that â is pronounced like the vowel in "cut", while ơ sounds like [ᘐ] in "fur".

We hope that you will enjoy the lesson.

Happy learning!



Team VietnamesePod101.com

David V
Monday at 01:10 AM
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I'm embarrassed to point this out, but only ơ and the shorter â are pronounced like the vowel in "cut". The sound ă makes is pronounced the same as the Vietnamese letter a only shorter, as perfectly demonstrated by the examples you give. Apart from this oversight, thank you for providing this useful content. It's helped clarify a few things for me.

VietnamesePod101.com Verified
Thursday at 05:25 PM
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Hi Spencer,

Thank you for your comment. "iơ" is not a combined vowel in Vietnamese. The example you mentioned "giờ" is combined by "gi" + "ơ". Hope this helps ? Let me know if you have any further questions.



Team VietnamesePod101.com

VietnamesePod101.com Verified
Thursday at 05:23 PM
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Hi Barbara Siemann,

Thank you for your comment. We have checked the lesson audio and it works just fine. Please can you try to open the page in a new browser? If this does not work still, do let us know.



Team VietnamesePod101.com

Tuesday at 12:18 AM
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Hi there, The Table seems to be missing the "iơ". Used, for example, in giở (hour).

Barbara Siemann
Friday at 10:43 AM
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This is impossible! Why is there no audio? I'm very disappointed..

Sunday at 06:15 AM
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Again, another audio file that stops about 25% thru lesson. Same problem exists for video file too. I am unable to lean by just reading I need the audio and video files to play correctly.

Thank you,


VietnamesePod101.com Verified
Tuesday at 12:06 AM
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Hi YG,

Welcome to VietnamesePod101.com!

And thank you for sharing your experience of studying Vietnamese.

It is true that the most difficult part of the beginning of studying Vietnamese language is pronunciation. To study more effectively, first, you need to understand the construction of a Vietnamese word's pronunciation. There are 2 parts of a word you need to accurately practice on, those are : the compound of letters and tone mark. Let me take an example with the word : bố (father)

* Pronounce the compound of the letters b-ô correctly. The tip here is : it would be the best if you can see how the native speaker move their mouth, their tongue when saying this word. It will makes it is more correct to pronounce and faster to remember the sound.

* Tone mark : High raising tone mark - To do this, you need to listen carefully to remember the sound of the letters' compound. Then try your best to hit the right note ( like when you sing ) .

To practice Vietnamese pronunciation, it's not only listening to the native speakers - copying and making the same sounds but it's also remembering how to WRITE it. It will help you when you see a new word which has the same rhyme with the word you studied before. You will immediately know how to pronounce it. Such as: biết ( to know), viết ( to write ), ...

Our website has the "My teacher" feature, you can study, practice pronunciation with the native speaker teacher by recording your own pronunciation, getting it corrected and watching, listening to the teacher's pronunciation in video file or audio file.

Practice makes perfect! Take your time and enjoying studying Vietnamese with us!



Team VietnamesePod101.com

Wednesday at 02:06 AM
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Hi there!

I have been studying Vietnamese for about two months now. Pronunciation is still incredibly difficult for me, which is shocking since my native tongue has many difficult guttural sounds and glottal stops. I'm hoping I'll be able to master Vietnamese pronunciation, the most difficult are the vowels and diphthongs. The grammar itself is considerably simpler than my native tongue and even simpler than English. I feel like the truly difficult aspects of Vietnamese for me are the pronunciation and the fact that certain phrases do not make sense when broken into separate components. That becomes a problem when I'm trying to use a dictionary. Do you have any suggestions on how to master pronunciation in Vietnamese? I have been trying to practice with native speakers as much as possible, have been listening to Vietnamese music as well as listening to books such as the Bible and Harry Potter in Vietnamese. Thanks for your suggestions in advance.


VietnamesePod101.com Verified
Tuesday at 10:59 AM
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Hi aidriano,

"i ngắn" and "i dài" are used to differentiate i and y when we talk about them (because their sounds are the same when we speak). In written text, we still keep "i" and "y". There are no written names for other vowels or diphthongs in this lesson. Their names are their sounds.

About the replacement of "y" with "i", I thought I had told you once. There was a rule by the Ministry of Education to replace "y" with "i" for words in which "y" comes right after a consonant (both single and double consonants) such as "kĩ thuật", "chi tiết", "hi vọng" etc.

"y" stays the same if it stands alone as a single word but only for Chinese origin words such as "y khoa", "y tế", "ý nghĩa". There is no change in both "y" and "i" in diphthongs or triphthongs such as yêu, iêu, ai, ay etc and in proper names.

Many people keep writing "y" for such reasons as their writing habits, their preferences or their thought that "y" looks more beautiful in some words etc. So in real life, the use of both "y" and "i" are still accepted in many words, for example "hi vọng/hy vọng", "nghệ sĩ/ nghệ sỹ", "kĩ thuật/ kỹ thuật".

Also, thank you for your feedback on the mistakes in the audio and lesson notes.



Team VietnamesePod101.com