Vietnamese Alphabet: How to Write and Pronounce Correctly

The Vietnamese alphabet is a system of characters, letters, and accents or diacritics that learners need to memorize to be able to read and write Vietnamese fluently.

Good at the pronunciation rules of the alphabet is an extremely important step to better understand Vietnamese. Unlike English, the letters in the alphabet of Vietnamese have only one way of reading it, only when adding diacritics does it make another sound.

Here, let’s learn more about the Vietnamese alphabet.

vietnamese alphabet
Vietnamese alphabet

Structure of the standard Vietnamese alphabet

According to the standards of the Ministry of Education, currently, the Vietnamese alphabet usually has 29 letters and 5 diacritics. This is not a large number of letters to remember for every student the first time they expose to Vietnamese.

The letters of the alphabet in Vietnam have two forms of writing, one is normal/lowercase and capital/uppercase.

  • Uppercase letters are also called a large capital print.
  • Lowercase letters are also called small letters.

Summary of names and pronunciation of Vietnamese letters.

12iIi/i ngắni
15mMem mờ/e-mờmờ
16nNem nờ/ e-nờnờ
28xXích xìxờ
29yYi/i dàii

In addition to the traditional letters included in the current Vietnamese alphabet, the Ministry of Education is also considering many people’s suggestions about adding four letters of the English alphabet to the table of the Vietnamese alphabet, including f, w, j, z.

This issue is being debated and there is currently no consensus. The four letters mentioned above have appeared in books and newspapers but not in Vietnamese letters.

You can see these letters in words derived from other languages ​​such as the “Z” in the word Showbiz, or “F” in the word Cafe, etc.

As learning English, to be able to learn the alphabet well, you need to understand the rules of vowels, consonants, and how to place sound marks in Vietnamese correctly.

Vowels in the Vietnamese alphabet

In the latest Vietnamese alphabet, there are 12 single vowels: a, ă, â, e, ê, i, y, o, o, õ, u, ư. There are also three diphthongs with many specific spellings, such as ua – uô, ia – yê – iê, ưa – ươ.

vietnamese vowels
Vietnamese vowels

Here are some important characteristics that learners need to note about how to read the above Vietnamese vowels as follows:

* a and ă are two vowels. They have nearly the same reading from the basis of the position of the tongue to the opening of the mouth, the pronunciation of the mouth.

* Two vowels ơ and â are nearly similar, but that the ơ sound is a little longer than the â sound.

* For vowels, accented vowels are: ư, ơ, ô, â, ă need special attention. For foreigners, these sounds need to be studied seriously because they are not in the alphabet and are especially difficult to remember.

* In writing, all single vowels appear alone in syllables and do not repeat in the same position near each other. For English, the letters can appear many times, even standing together such as o in look, e in see, etc. Purebred Vietnamese does not exist this rule, but modern Vietnamese scripts can borrow and create some words, such as Xoong means pot, quần soóc means shorts…

* The two sounds “ă” and “à” do not stand alone in Vietnamese writing.

* When teaching pronunciation to students, based on the opening of the mouth and the position of the tongue to teach pronunciation, which can help students easily understand how to read, and pronounce.

Consonants in the Vietnamese alphabet

In the Vietnamese alphabet, most of the consonants are recorded with a single letter: b, r, t, s, v (in Võ Thuật – Martial Arts),x… In addition, there are nine consonants written with two letters. Specific compound forms such as:

  • Ph: found in words like – phim (movie), pho (noddle).
  • Th: found in words like – thong thả (leisure), thức ăn (food).
  • Tr: in words like – tre (bamboo), trâu (buffalo), trà (Vietnamese tea)
  • Gi: in words like – gia sư (tutor), giá (price or pean sprout),
  • Ch: in words like – cha (father), chú (uncle).
  • Nh: in words like – nhẹ nhàng (gentle), nhạc cụ – meaning Vietnamese instrument.
  • Ng: in words like – ngày (day), ngầy (thin).
  • Kh: in words like – không khí (air), khó (difficult).
  • Gh: in words like – ghế (chair), ghi chép (a record).

Typically, in the Vietnamese alphabet, there is a consonant that is combined with 3 letters: is Ngh – used in words nghề nghiệp (career), nghiêng (inclined).

Besides, three consonants have the same pronunciation when standing in different letters. They are the consonant /k/ that is recorded with:

  • K when standing in front of i/y, iê, ê, e (eg: kí/ký, kiên cường …);
  • Q when standing in front of a semi-vowel u (eg qua, quoc, que…)
  • C when standing before the remaining vowels (eg cá, cơm, cốc…)

The consonant /g/ is recorded with:

  • Gh when standing in front of the vowels i, iê, ê, e (VD: ghi, ghiền, ghê,…)
  • G when standing before the remaining vowels (eg gỗ -ưood, ga – station, …)

Consonant /ng/ is recorded with:

  • Ngh when standing in front of vowels i, iê, ê, e (eg: nghi thức- ceremony, nghe – listen,)
  • Ng when standing in front of the remaining vowels (eg: ngư -fish, ngã -fall, ngón tay -finger…)
learn vietnamese alphabet

The diacritics or accents in the Vietnamese alphabet

Currently, in the Vietnamese script, there are 5 diacritics: dấu sắc – sharp mark (´), dấu huyền – grave accent (`), dấu – hỏi – question mark (ˀ), dấu ngã – tilde (~), dấu nặng – under dot (.)

Rules for placing diacritics in Vietnamese:

  • If there is a vowel in the word, put the accent right in the vowel (Example: ú, ngũ, ngã, bà…)
  • If there are two vowels in a word, type the diacritic in the first vowel (eg: của cải – property, ngày – day).
  • Note that for some words like “quả” (fruit) or “già” (old) then “qu” and “gi” are the resulting diphthong vowel, which combines with one vowel “a”. So, put the diacritic on “a”.
  • If there are three vowels, the diacritic will be on the second vowel (for example, khuỷu tay – elbow).
  • If a word has a vowel “ê” and “ơ”, the diacritic is a priority on it (eg: “tiếu” – fun, thuở – age).

How to teach the Vietnamese alphabet to foreigners

Learning the Vietnamese alphabet is very simple when using Latin letters to teach English students. The learners can study and read directly on the letters of the Vietnamese language.

For Chinese, Laotian, Thai, Korean, Japanese students, it is recommended to use hieroglyphs to guide learning how to read and write Vietnamese. It means using a photo named that includes the letter to teach.

Of course, the initial learning is often quite difficult for foreigners in pronunciation and the writing process. Not only foreigners, if Vietnamese people don’t practice writing hard, but they also can’t remember the letters in the Vietnamese alphabet. So, practice reading and train writing to know the Vietnamese language easily.

The next step after learning the Vietnamese alphabet

If you want to go deep dive into Vietnamese, after learning the alphabet fluently, you have to progress to the steps of reading words and reading comprehension.

Step one: Read word for word

Reading words is the step of putting letters of the alphabet together to create a word. As mentioned above, the Vietnamese letter has only one pronunciation, no matter where it is in a word, only an accent mark will make the letter a different sound, actually a different letter or a various word.

This is the step you need a teacher to guide in the beginning. It is interesting for you to learn Vietnamese food names. It is estimated that from 32 to 40 hours, a student aged 18 or over can grasp the rules of reading in Vietnamese.

Step two: Develop the ability to read and understand each sentence

To develop reading comprehension ability, you must first be able to read words out loud sentence by sentence, the focus is on reading clearly the Vietnamese sounds, reading at the right speed to be able to comprehend the text’s content, and know pause in the right place.

For artistic texts, you will learn to read expressively in emotional passages. These basic requirements must be mastered step by step.

When learning to read artistic texts in Vietnamese, you should choose hexagonal poetry to practice reading. Because this is a rhyming poem that is easy to read, easy to learn how to break the beat.

This step can also take 50 – 70 hours (about 3 – 5 months), depending on the ability of learners.

Step three: Read and understand the passage of the poem or artistic text

This is an advanced step in learning Vietnamese. You will have to read and understand the content of each paragraph or poem.

Because artistic texts require abstract thinking in the Vietnamese style, learners have to learn and think in various ways to understand them.

This step requires Vietnamese language teachers who have a good understanding of artistic texts and how to communicate artistic texts in a good way that is simple and easy to understand for Vietnamese learners.

This step requires quite a long time, about 5-7 months of learning, about 80-110 hours. But, if you want to sing some songs in Vietnamese music, you need more time to study.

Above is the content related to the Vietnamese alphabet you can refer to. We hope this content can help you in the process of learning the Vietnamese language.

About the author


Editor at HueFlavor is a15-year local guide, Mr. Ho Thom, who loves local food in Hue as well as in Vietnam. Trusted by hundreds of guests around the world.