Traveling to a new country can be exciting but quite intimidating at the same time, especially if you are not familiar with the language or the culture. There are many nuances that you just can’t learn in a short amount of time and the Vietnamese language is no different.
To ease some of your worries regarding the potential language barrier, Vietcetera compiled a list of the most common Vietnamese phrases that travelers should know. With these phrases, you will not only feel more comfortable in Vietnam but maybe also impress a few locals.
Bạn khỏe không (How are you?)
“Bạn khỏe không?” intends to ask someone how they are doing. However, the phrase “Bạn khỏe không?” is a very formal approach to the conversation. Often times, this is something your boss will ask you or something you hear from exchanges between older individuals.
On a more personal level, friends often ask each other “Dạo này sao rồi?” which means “How is it going?”. The point here is to get life updates. From these stories, we often get a sense of how our friends are doing and how they are currently feeling. In addition, the stories will help sustain the conversation.
Cảm ơn (Thank you)
A simple “Cảm ơn” will always brighten up some one’s day as it makes them feel appreciative. However, you can incorporate a little touch to this phrase to convey respect, especially if the individual is older than you. The word “dạ” is a form of showing respect to your elders. Standing alone, the word “dạ” means yes and is used by younger individuals as a response to older or higher-ranking individuals. However, if combined with another expression such as “Dạ cảm ơn”, this phrase will be more expressive.
Xin mời (Please)
“Xin mời” is used to invite someone to do something. During a meal, everyone can say “Xin mời” to invite each other to dig in. In a way, this is one of the many Vietnamese versions of the phrase “Bon appetit”. Specifically, children and younger individuals at the table are expected to invite everyone to eat before they can start eating. These individuals are expected to use expressive words like “dạ” to show respect for others.
For more casual use, you can say this phrase during a meal with friends to be welcoming. This helps signal everyone that we can start eating, creating a more comfortable and amicable atmosphere.
Xin lỗi (Sorry)
“Xin lỗi” means asking for forgiveness as “lỗi” translates to mistakes or errors. In this sense “Xin lỗi” is used when you realize you’ve wronged someone. This phrase is rarely used in daily conversations as Vietnamese people often associate it with wrongdoings. Thus, “Xin lỗi” does not intend to express politeness like the phrase “Excuse me”. Interestingly, there is no direct translation for the phrase “Excuse me.”
However, in modernized Vietnam, a lot of young individuals are starting to use “Xin lỗi” as they become more influenced by the English language. To politely state something, you can start with the phrase “Xin lỗi”. This is acceptable if you feel like you’re imposing on another person or if you are trying to ask a sensitive question.
Tôi yêu bạn (I love you)
Although “I love you” can be translated to “Tôi yêu bạn”, it is not a common phrase in Vietnamese’ daily lives. In Vietnam, endearment is often shown through someone’s gestures and behavior. Thus, the Vietnamese don’t often say “Love you” to their friends or even family members. To show their endearment towards others, close friends and family usually make sarcastic comments or show their love through endearing gestures.
You should also note that hearing the phrase “Tôi yêu bạn” from someone is also a strange phenomenon. Since Vietnamese people don’t often express their affection with this phrase, it would be a very special occasion if you receive it from someone.
Written by Phuoc Ho
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