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Lesson Transcript

Giang: Hello everyone! Welcome back to VietnamesePod101.com. My name is Giang!
Jason: And I’m Jason! This is Pronunciation, lesson 4 Vietnamese Accents. How is it going, listeners? Are you getting the hang of Vietnamese pronunciation? We hope so!

Lesson focus

Giang: This time we’re going to go over some regional variations in pronunciation.
Jason: Up until now, you’ve learned that Vietnamese has a set number of consonants and vowels – 17 native consonants,12 vowels, and many compound consonants and vowels.
Giang: Right. But we also want to tell our listeners that depending on where you go in Vietnam, people might say things differently. So, how are we going to cover this?
Jason: Well, we’re going to focus on three regions Northern, Central, and Southern Vietnam. The northern, central, and southern dialects are named after the representative city of each region, so Hanoi accent is the northern, Hue accent is the central and Sai Gon accent is the southern. These are also among the most visited cities by foreign tourists. Out of these three dialects, the Hanoi or northern accent is considered the standard Vietnamese and is the one spoken by most foreigners learning Vietnamese. We learn northern Vietnamese in our series too.
Giang: That’s right. Now, let’s go into some more detail.
Jason: Firstly, let’s talk about the differences in the sound system and vocabulary.
Giang: There are variations in vowel and consonant pronunciation between the three regions. For example, northerners don’t really make distinctions between the consonants chờ and trờ , ét xì and ích xì or among rờ, dờ and di.
Jason: Oh, that’s confusing. How can they tell the correct spelling when the consonants are not pronounced distinctly?
Giang: Well, there are certain ways to tell which words they are referring to. You can look at the context and the surrounding words.
Jason: Okay, I see. Let’s continue with other kinds of variations. What about the Southern accent?
Giang: The Southern accent has both consonant and vowel variations. For example, they pronounce r, gi, d and v all as [j] sound. If I say “giả vờ” which means “to pretend” then a southerner would say, “jạ jờ”. Another difference is in the pronunciation of the compound consonant “quờ” - “qu”. It is pronounced [kw] in the north but [w] in the south. For example, “đẹp quá” which means “very beautiful”, becomes “đẹp wá” in a southern accent.
Jason: Oh, interesting. And there seem to be differences in tone, too.
Giang: Yes, that’s right. Now let’s continue with vowel variation, southerners tend to drop the “ê” sound in the triphthong “iêu”. So “nhiều quá”, which means “too much” would become “nhìu wá”. They also drop the “u” sound in the dipthong “uô” and drop the “ơ” sound in the dipthong “ươ”. For example, “dễ thương” meaning “lovely” becomes “jễ thưng”.
Jason: So Giang, do Vietnamese people have trouble understanding each other if they’re from different regions?
Giang: There’s usually no problem for people in the north and the south when they’re talking with each other. But the central accent is considered the hardest to understand. This is because of the vocabulary differences and heavy tones of voice.
Jason: Can you give us some examples?
Giang: Well, there are many words that are only understood by people in the central provinces, because they are different from the standard words in both pronunciation and spelling. For example, if northerners say, “sao thế?” meaning “what’s up”, people in the centre would say “răng rứa?” The words are totally different and the tone of voice is also heavier.
Jason: I see, it would be challenging for foreigners learning Vietnamese.
Giang: It sure is. But don’t worry, because people from the center are very good at imitating northern accents. They can understand you and make you understand them if you speak Northern Vietnamese.


Jason: All right, well that’s it for this lesson.
Giang: Make sure to keep practicing – listen over and over again if you have to!
Jason: Then, see you next time!