https://www.duolingo.com/kuah

Consonant Sounds

Hello fellow Vietnamese learners! I had been writing many notes on pronunciation and other aspects of learning Vietnamese as I have progressed on my own journey, and here I share some of those notes in the hope that it is helpful to you. Feedback is welcomed.

The following consonant sounds in Vietnamese do not appear in (most dialects of) English, or appear in different forms or in more constrained terms. I hope that the following information is useful in learning these sounds. Note that this post is based entirely on northern dialects; there are some completely different sounds in southern dialects, such as ʂ and ʐ.

The Vietnamese D d: Đ đ
Sound type: voiced alveolar implosive
IPA: ɗ
Forvo pronunciation
This letter may at first blush seem to be an equivalent to the English “D d” – don’t be fooled. The Vietnamese variant is implosive. An easy way to conceptualize the difference is in airflow. Say these few English words out loud, paying close attention to how air flows between your lungs and the outside: Door, Dang, Damp, Dip, Dance. How did the air flow?

The air flow in the English “D d” goes from the lungs and out. The Vietnamese “Đ đ” goes the other way. This may be a bit tricky (there is no English equivalent I am aware of), so I will try to walk through a couple of the differences in how I articulate the words.

Tongue. When making the English “D d”, my tongue starts a bit forward from the central roof of the mouth and moves in a curve going forward toward the teeth and down toward the jaw (how far seems to depend on the pace of speech). With the “Đ đ” my tongue starts near the top row of teeth and drops almost straight down toward the jaw.

Airflow. As mentioned, with the “Đ đ” airflow goes from the outside and into the lungs, so essentially sucking in air. This makes it more a final action than with “D d” in that you can’t easily string the “Đ đ” closely together (e.g. điđn’t, if it were a word, would be difficult to say at any sort of fast pace.

Here is a video with further information the various "d" sounds in various languages.

The Vietnamese B b
Sound type: voiced bilabial implosive
IPA: ɓ
Forvo pronunciation
The Vietnamese “B b” is another implosive letter. The difference between the Vietnamese and English “B b” is more subtle than the other implosive, with the most notable difference (to my ear) being the “power” or “force” of the vowel and its length, with the latter being shorter. It is also easier to pronounce compared to other implosives, as you have more of the oral cavity to work with.

The Vietnamese G g
Sound type: voiced velar fricative
IPA: ɣ
Forvo pronunciation
The Vietnamese “G g” is different from English, but it can be found in a few other languages – for example, the arabic “غ” is the same sound. Try focusing on the part of your mouth use when you gargle; the “G g” sound comes from ever so slightly forward towards the teeth. The sound is made by using the back of your tongue to block the airflow, and then release it. In this case it actually uses the back of your palate, not the parts of the tongue you normally use when speaking. It will likely feel more like closing your throat on itself.

The Vietnamese Kh
Sound type: voiceless velar fricative
IPA: x
Forvo pronunciation (not yet on forvo)
This sound is not found in American or British English, though it may be known to many English speakers through the Scottish pronunciation of “loch.” Some dialects also use the sound in “yech.” This sound also appears in the Arabic “خ” and German “ch.” If none of these strike a bell, think of the sound made by someone clearing their throat before spitting.

The Vietnamese Ñ: Nh
Sound type: palatial nasal
IPA: ɲ
Forvo pronunciation
Though this sound does not appear in English, many dialects get quite close to in the words “onion,” “canyon,” “senior,” and “junior.” On the other hand, if you know the Spanish ñ it is the same sound, and I think that simply hearing it is sufficient for reproduction.

The Vietnamese Th
Sound type: aspirated consonant
IPA: tʰ
Forvo pronunciation (not yet on forvo)
This is actually a sound added to a base consonant. Think of an exasperated sigh; this is essentially the same (though more prominent a sound). To pronounce it, think of the English word “taught” – now replace the “aught” with “hot” and say “thot” as one smooth word – the subtle “haw” sound is a similar feel to the aspirated th.

The Vietnamese Ch: Tr/Ch
Sound type: voiceless palatal stop / voiceless palatal plosive/voiceless alveolo-palatal affricate
IPA: c/ t͡ɕ
Forvo pronunciation (not yet on forvo)
Very similar sound to the english “ch” (tʃ). From what I can tell, there is only a slight difference in tongue position, with the tongue being slightly closer to the lower teeth in the Vietnamese sound. This is a subtle difference that I find hard to articulate, so try listening to and mimicking different words with this sound to get a feel for it.

The Vietnamese Ng
Sound type: velar nasal
IPA: ŋ
Forvo pronunciation
This sound appears in both English and Vietnamese, with two differences: (1) in Vietnamese the sound may appear at the start of the sentence, and (2) it is very common in Vietnamese (and other southeast Asian languages). It is the same sound as found in singing (and other –ing words). Here is a detailed video on how to pronounce this particular sound.

The Vietnamese -Ng (ending ng)
Sound type: labial-velar nasal
IPA: ŋ͡m
Forvo pronunciation (not yet on forvo)
Wikipedia pronunciation
This sound appears at the end of some words, similar to the above ng though with an “m” sound toward the end. From what I can tell the key is to close and then open your mouth as concurrent with the latter part of the /ŋ/ sound.

The Vietnamese –c (ending c)
Sound type: voiceless labial-velar stop
IPA: k͡p
Forvo pronunciation (not yet on forvo)
Wikipedia pronunciation
This sound appears at the end of some words. In this case you close and open your mouth shortly after you make the “c” sound.

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To hear some of the sounds, look for the IPA symbol on wikipedia or at consolidated charts with sounds here or here.

2 years ago

20 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/ckhadung
ckhadung
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Great one. That just eases my job a lot. Thanks.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/kuah

Không có chi. Glad to be of help.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/hellofroom

the way you used vietnamese is so natural

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/TehVanarch

Keep in mind this is mostly for the Northern dialect only. The Southern dialects pronounce kh- as an aspirated /kʰ/ sound instead of /x/. Furthermore there are so many differences between vowels and final consonants and even tones. -t endings are always merged with -c in the South except for -êt and it but the vowels are mutated respectively into -ơt and -ưt. Similarly -n is always merged with -ng in the South except for -ên and -in which become -ơn and -ưn. The tones in the South are much easier to replicate and two of them merge (hỏi and ngã).

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Usagiboy7
Usagiboy7
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Thank you for compiling this. Very helpful. I especially appreciate that you've explained how the inside of the mouth and the breathing works with each one. Thank you. :)

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/WildSage
WildSage
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Wow, thanks. Looks like Vietnamese is going to be a good course with lots of help.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/kuah

Welcome to the course! I take a lot of notes as I learn, so I will have much to share over time.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Ungewitig_Wiht

Just saying that [tʰ] is no explanation required for an English speaker; the T at the beginning of a word like "top" or "tempo" is a tʰ already. If you were teaching to Spanish speakers there would be an explanation required.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/kuah

Thanks for the feedback. It does appear throughout English, though the use is a bit different so I thought it was worth drawing attention to. In Vietnamese it can differentiate words, while in English it is more a default property of certain arrangements of letters.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/DiegoJaviUnlam
DiegoJaviUnlam
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Spanish speaker here!! Many thanks ;D

Note: I think is very important to show the differences between languages. This is a really good contribution!!!

For example, this other Stuart's video explains very well the different pronunciations of D's (even the Spanish D, hehe):

Not All Ds Were Created Equal - Chinese Vietnamese Spanish Thai English

(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uHsO1exf-kw)

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/kuah

Thanks for sharing. He has a knack for explaining these concepts, and I hope he shares more on Vietnamese in the future. I will add this video to the main post.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Neco_Coneco
Neco_Coneco
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Xin cảm ơn! Can you do a post about Vietnamese vowels?

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/kuah

Không có chi. I would like to! The vowels are a bit more complicated (there is an amazing amount of disagreement over vowel sounds if you look at research on the topic) so it might take a while.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/_Suzue_
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You can write "Không có chi" or "Không có gì".

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/kuah

I see, thanks for sharing.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Neco_Coneco
Neco_Coneco
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The vowel sounds and diphthongs are such a pain in the butt. :( And so are the tones.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/kuah

In case you haven't noticed yet, I added a post on vowels here.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/_Detective_
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Good.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/_Detective_
_Detective_
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I gave you 4 lings.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/meicel_

Thank you so much for this tips, kuah! Stuart makes a great job. I keep fighting for learn vietnamese here :)

1 year ago
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