Vietnamese Name Pronunciation for dummies (tips on pronouncing common Vietnamese names)

Here’s a quick primer on Vietnamese names and peculiar pronunciations. (Please be informed that this is just a crash course for those in a hurry; some words are missing their proper intonation marks.  It was never intended to be a Vietnamese language lesson)

Do click like if you find the article helpful.  I look forward to any comments, suggestions, or if you need any clarification on the pronunciations.

Vietnamese Names

Usually in 3 parts, <Family/surname> <”given” name”>

1. (Mr) Vo Van Quang
2. (Miss) Nguyen Thi Thuy Vinh

We address Vietnamese people by using the 3rd (given) name, same examples above (1) Mr Quang, (2) Miss Vinh (they use this convention mainly because certain surnames are very common)

Pronunciations (general rules only)

  1. The name “Dang” is pronounced with the sound of “a” in the English word “far”. This “D” has a horizontal cross/dash at the vertical stroke; take a close look at the Vietnam “Dong” currency to see what I mean, and it is pronounced with the regular “D” sound
  2. The “normal” “D” (without the cross dash) is pronounced with a “y” sound – the D is SILENT.  An example would help: “Dung” is pronounced “yoong” (sound of “oo” in “zoo”), eg. the name of Vietnam’s Prime Minister, Nguyen Tan Dung (actual Vietnamese spelling: Nguyễn Tấn Dũng) is pronounced as “nguin tan yoong” (remember the “a” is pronounced with same sound as “far”)
  3. “Binh” is pronounced with the sound of “e” in the English word “fern”. (You’ll notice this sound comes up a lot)  The same sound goes for Minh and Linh.
  4. Uniquely, “Sinh” and “Vinh” are pronounced as spelt.
  5. “Xuan” is pronounced as “swerng” and “Thuan” is pronounced as “twerng” (the sound of “e” in “fern”)
  6. “Van” is pronounced as “verng” (the sound of “e” in “fern”)
  7. “tr…” is pronounced as “ch…” Hence, the name “Trang” is pronounced “chang” (sound of “a” in the English word “bang” or “fang”).  However, peculiarly, the name “Tran” is pronounced as “cherng” (sound of “e” in fern).   Side note: A non-name example of the “tr” sound is iced tea, spelt “tra da”, pronounced “cha da”. The 2 syllable sound is similar to the “uh huh” that Americans say when they are in agreement with a speaker in face-to-face dialogue. (here are the actual VN words: trà đá.  Do take note of that cross/dash on the “d”, denoting the regular “d” sound)
  8. “Nguyen” is pronounced “nguin”, “Thuyen” is pronounced as “thuin”, “Quyen” is pronounced as “quin”, you get the drift.  All these are pronounced with the sound of “ruin”. But, peculiarly for Quyen, the “Q” is almost silent, so it’s regularly pronounced as “uin”. It gets somewhat more confusing … because there’s another name, Uyen, which is pronounced with a heavier accent on the “U”, hence pronounced as “uuin”
  9. “Phuong” is pronounced as “feng”, (the sound of “e” in “fern”).  Wait! It’s not so simple … the second part is accentuated, so it’s more like “ferrnng”.  This name is very common, but particularly tricky.  You really HAVE to ask your Vietnamese friends if you want to learn the exact sound.

If you see any Vietnamese word and need the English equivalent, check out Google Translate:|vi|

It won’t be 100% accurate, but it’s a start.  Apart from that, do ask your Vietnamese friends if you need any clarification.  Good luck!

Some history:
Although everyone uses this spelling of “Vietnam”, the local population strongly and vehemently prefer to spell it as “Viet Nam”, since Vietnam was coined by the West.  * Its origin was “Nam Viet”, a name first used by the Chinese.  Nam means “South” and Viet means “the Chinese generic name for peoples to the south of core region of China”, i.e. literally “South Region”.  (* source: wikipedia)

(in case you are wondering … I stayed in Ho Chi Minh City – or Saigon – for 3 years, and returned to Malaysia end of 2011)

About Stephen T. (Johor Bahru, Malaysia)

Trying to live a simple life in a complicated world. I am a Malaysian (of Chinese ancestry) living in Johor Bahru, Malaysia
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4 Responses to Vietnamese Name Pronunciation for dummies (tips on pronouncing common Vietnamese names)

  1. Tanvi Hosen says:

    How do you pronounce “Quyen”?

    • it’s pronounced as “Quinn” … I cannot explain the sound here, but on google translate, it’s something like this:

  2. A lot of this is inaccurate I’m afraid. You need to get native Vietnamese speaker to edit this.

    • Thanks for responding… I did mention – at the beginning of my post – that this was never meant to be a Vietnamese lesson, hence I had deliberately avoided intonation marks as far as possible while drafting the post. Given this objective to simplify the sounds, would you perhaps like to share your thoughts on how to make it more accurate or accessible for a non-native speaker?
      By the way, I do have many Vietnamese friends who have never mentioned to me that anything was amiss, as you implied.


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