9 Reasons Vietnamese is Easier Than You Think (2022)

9 Reasons Vietnamese is Easier Than You Think (1)

written by
George Julian

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Just how difficult is the Vietnamese language?

Pretty much impossible, if you ask the Vietnamese themselves. The supposed difficulty of Vietnam's official language is a point of national pride amongst its 90 million inhabitants, and locals are happy to tell you “tiếng Việt khó!” (Vietnamese is hard) at every possible opportunity.

So if you’re learning Vietnamese, or thinking about learning, it’s likely that all you’ve been getting so far is discouragement! In this article, I want to give you an alternate perspective, and offer you some encouragement, because chances are that Vietnamese is easier than you think.

It's true that, with six tones and a plethora of strange vowel sounds that we don’t have in English, pronouncing Vietnamese can be tricky. But most expats in Vietnam (of which I was one for a year) fail to realise that the pronunciation is just about the only difficult thing about Vietnamese. Every other aspect of the language is extremely easy – far easier that what you might expect, especially compared to most European languages.

(Video) 7 Reasons Vietnamese is EASIER than English | Learn Vietnamese with TVO

Don't believe me? Here are ninereasons why Vietnamese is easier than you think:

9 Reasons Vietnamese is Easier Than You Think (2)

1. Vietnamese Has No Genders

If you've ever learned French, Spanish, German, or just about any European language except English, you just breathed a huge sigh of relief. Vietnamese has no concept of “masculine” or “feminine” words. You can just learn the word as it is, without any need for extra memorisation.

2. Vietnamese Dispenses with “a” and “the”

If someone who was studying English asked you when to use “a” before a word, and when to use “the”, would you be able to explain? It’s a surprisingly complicated topic. The Wikipedia pageon “articles”, as they’re called, is over 2500 words long!

But is it really that important whether you’re talking about “a” something or “the” something? It’s usually obvious from the context which one you mean. Far easier to just do away with them completely, which is what Vietnamese does. Người can mean both a person or “the person”, and you never need to worry about the distinction.

3. Vietnamese Doesn’t Have Plurals

In English, when we want to make something plural we usually stick an “s” on the end of it. “Dog” becomes “dogs”, “table” becomes “tables” and “house” becomes “houses”. However, there are many exceptions. “Person” becomes “people”, “mouse” becomes “mice”, “man” becomes “men”, and some words like “sheep” or “fish” don’t change at all.

In Vietnamese, everything is like a sheep. The word người, which I’ve already mentioned, can be used for both “people” or “person”; “chó” is “dog” or “dogs”, “bàn” is “table” or “tables”, and so on. If you think this would get confusing, ask yourself: can you remember a single time in your life when you heard someone talking about “the sheep” or “the fish” and you got confused because you didn’t know how many animals they were talking about?

If you really need to be specific, just slap an extra word in front of the noun, like một người (one person), nhũng người (some people), or các người (all the people). Easy.

And it’s not just nouns that are simple…

4. Vietnamese Has No Confusing Verb Endings

Pity the poor learner of Spanish. Even to say something as simple as the word “speak” (hablar), he or she has to learn five or six (depending on dialect) different verb endings for the present tense alone . I hablo, you hablas, he habla, we hablamos, and the list goes on. Factor in different tenses and subtleties like the grammatical “mood” (indicative vs subjunctive), and a single Spanish verb has over fifty different forms that learners have to memorize.

(Video) 9 Reasons to Learn Vietnamese║Lindsay Does Languages Video

The technical term is that Spanish verbs (and nouns, and adjectives) inflect, meaning the same word can take different forms depending on the context. English isn’t nearly as inflective as Spanish, but we still do it to some extent – for example the word “speak” can inflect to “speaks”, “speaking”, “spoken”, or “spoke”.

Here's the good news: Vietnamese is a completely non-inflective language – no word ever changes its form in any context. Learn the word nói, and you know how to say “speak” in all contexts and tenses for all speakers. I nói, you nói, he or she nói, we nói, you all nói, and they nói. That’s dozens, if not hundreds of hours of work saved compared to learning almost any European language.

A corollary to this is something that will give anyone’s who’s studied a European language a sigh of relief:

5. Vietnamese Tenses Can Be Learned In Two Minutes

Vietnamese tenses are so easy it’s practically cheating. Just take the original verb, e.g. “ăn” (to eat), and stick one of the following 5 words in front of it:

  • đã = in the past
  • mới = in the recent past, more recently than đã
  • đang = right now, at this very moment
  • sắp = soon, in the near future
  • sẽ = in the future

(There are a few others, but with these 5 you’ll be fine in 99% of situations.)

To give you some concrete examples (“tôi” means “I”):

  • Tôi ăn cơm = I eat rice
  • Tôi đã ăn cơm = I ate rice
  • Tôi mới ăn cơm = I just ate rice, I recently ate rice
  • Tôi đang ăn cơm = I am eating rice (right now)
  • Tôi sắp ăn cơm = I am going to eat rice, I am about to eat rice
  • Tôi sẽ ăn cơm = I will eat rice.

Better yet, you can often skip these words entirely if it’s obvious from the context – for example “tôi ăn cơm hom qua” – “I eat rice yesterday” – is perfectly valid Vietnamese.

Congratulations! You can now express yourself in Vietnamese in any tense! Wasn’t that simple?

9 Reasons Vietnamese is Easier Than You Think (3)

6. You Don’t Have To Learn a New Alphabet

You can thank the French for this one. Up until about 100 years ago, Vietnamese was written (by the tiny percentage of the population who were literate back then) using a complicated pictoral system called Chữ Nôm that's similar to today’s Chinese characters. Today, that’s been 100% superseded by a version of the Latin alphabet (i.e. the same alphabet that English uses) called Quốc Ngữ. So, unlike Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese, Thai, Cambodian, Korean, Hindi, or dozens of other Asian languages, there's no need to learn a new alphabet to read Vietnamese . All you have to do is learn a bunch of accent marks (technically “diacritics”), which are mostly used to denote tone, and you’ll be reading Vietnamese in no time.

(Video) Vietnamese Women Aren't As Easy As You Think!

In fact, learning to read Vietnamese is actually easier than learning to read English, because…

7. Vietnamese Spelling is Highly Consistent and Unambiguous

Quick question: how do you pronounce the English words “read”, “object”, “close”, and “present”? Well, was it close, or did you close? Did you present the present, read what I’ve read, or object to the object?

English spelling is extremely inconsistent, more than any other language I’m aware of, and the “same” word can often have different pronunciations depending on the context. Even the same letter can be pronounced a ton of different ways – like the letter “a” in “catch”, “male”, “farmer”, “bread”, “read” and “meta”. Combine this with a huge amount of inconsistencies, foreign spellings, and things that make absolutely no sense whatever (like the suffix -ough, and ESL students have one hell of hard time figuring out how English words should be written or pronounced).

Vietnamese, on the hand, has none of this nonsense. The same letter is always pronounced the same way no matter what the word or context (disclaimer: this holds true more for Hanoi Vietnamese than Saigon Vietnamese, which has a very small number of inconsistencies), and you can always tell from reading a single Vietnamese word exactly how it’s supposed to be pronounced. Once you can read the Vietnamese alphabet’s 28 letters (which, remember, are almost exactly the same as English’s 26), and understand its five tone marks, you can read any Vietnamese word. Job done!

8. Vietnamese Grammar is Virtually Non-Existent

I already mentioned how Vietnamese lets you leave out the tense word (like saying “I eat rice yesterday”) if what you mean is obvious from the context. This is actually just one example of a wider point: Vietnamese grammar is incredibly simple. Most of the time, you can just say the minimum amount of words needed to get your point across and the result is grammatically correct Vietnamese, no matter how “broken” it would sound in English.

This is why you'll often hear Vietnamese people using incomplete English sentences like “no have” or “where you go?”. They’re just translating directly from how they’d say it in Vietnamese, forgetting to apply the much more complicated rules that English insists on. It's a big disadvantage for Vietnamese people wanting to learn English, but it makes your life much easier as a learner of Vietnamese.

9. Vietnamese Vocabulary is Highly Logical

Most foreigners in Vietnam, even if they don't speak Vietnamese, will know the amusing fact that xe ôm – the local name for Vietnam’s ubiquitous motorbike taxis – translates literally as “hug vehicle.” But it doesn’t stop there – a huge percentage of Vietnamese vocabulary is formed by just combining two words in a logical manner, whereas in English you'd have to learn an entirely new third word that sounds completely different.

For instance, if I told you that máy means “machine” and bay means “flying”, could you guess what máy bay means?

There are more examples than I can begin to list, but to give you an idea: a bench is a “long chair”, a refrigerator is a “cold cupboard”, a bra is a “breast shirt” and a bicycle is a “pedal vehicle”. To ski is “to slide snow”, a tractor is a “pulling machine”, a turkey is a “western chicken”, a zebra is a “striped horse”, and the list goes on and on and on. This massively speeds up your learning of new vocabulary! As you build up a foundation of basic words, they become more than the sum of their parts as you automatically unlock hundred of new translations.

(Video) What Does Your Name Mean? | Easy Vietnamese 9

Vietnamese is Easier than You Think

Have I convinced you yet that Vietnamese just might be easier than you previously thought?

Hopefully I've managed to undo some of the myths and misconceptions you may have held around Vietnamese, and given you an insight into how the language works.

9 Reasons Vietnamese is Easier Than You Think (5)

George Julian

Content Writer, Fluent in 3 Months

George is a polyglot, linguistics nerd and travel enthusiast from the U.K. He speaks four languages and has dabbled in another five, and has been to more than forty countries. He currently lives in London.

Speaks: English, French, Spanish, German, Vietnamese, Portuguese


View all posts by George Julian


Why is Vietnamese easy? ›

Although all Asian languages are relatively harder for English native speakers to learn, Vietnamese is one of the easier one compared to Korean, Chinese, Japanese and so on. It is because Vietnamese adopts Latin alphabet and no plural forms and articles.

Is Vietnamese easy or hard? ›

Why it's hard: Vietnamese is a tonal language with six different tones that dictate the meaning of a word. The high number of vowel sounds also prove difficult for English speakers to nail down.

Is Vietnamese an easy language? ›

Learning Vietnamese is neither hard nor easy. As we will see, many more aspects of Vietnamese grammar are dễ rather than khó. Realistically, it is more accurate to say that Vietnamese is mostly "an easy language" rather than "a hard language." However, one aspect of Vietnamese, the pronunciation, is quite difficult.

Is Vietnamese the worlds hardest language? ›

Vietnamese is ranked at difficulty level 4 of 5 with a note that Vietnamese is considered more difficult than other level-4 languages. By contrast, Mandarin and Cantonese Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Arabic are all assigned a difficulty level of 5 on the scale.

What language is easiest to learn? ›

15 of the easiest languages to learn for English speakers - ranked
  • Frisian. Frisian is thought to be one of the languages most closely related to English, and therefore also the easiest for English-speakers to pick up. ...
  • Dutch. ...
  • Norwegian. ...
  • Spanish. ...
  • Portuguese. ...
  • Italian. ...
  • French. ...
  • Swedish.
24 Oct 2021

Is Vietnamese or Russian harder? ›

Vietnamese grammar being easier than Russian, so you can focus more on vocabulary. greater motivation – I fell in love with Vietnamese but I never fell in love with the Russian language or culture.

Which is harder Japanese or Vietnamese? ›

Is Vietnamese Harder Than Japanese? The Japanese language is considered a super-hard language to learn, according to the FSI. The Japanese writing system comprises three systems: hiragana, katakana, and kanji. This makes Japanese writing is harder than Vietnamese because there is only one Vietnamese alphabet.

Is Vietnamese worth learning? ›

Learning Vietnamese is worthwhile if you plan to travel to Vietnam or stay there for a while. This is because few Vietnamese people can speak English in Vietnam.

Is Vietnamese or Thai harder? ›

Vietnamese is easier than Thai. The use of the Latin alphabet is easier to learn and start reading. The pronunciation and grammar are similar and take an equal amount of time to learn. The Thai alphabet has a more significant learning curve and therefore takes longer.

Why do Vietnamese sound like? ›

A large number of words were borrowed from Middle Chinese, forming part of the Sino-Vietnamese vocabulary. These caused the original introduction of the retroflex sounds /ʂ/ and /ʈ/ (modern s, tr) into the language.

What are the 3 most hardest languages? ›

The Hardest Languages To Learn For English Speakers
  1. Mandarin Chinese. Interestingly, the hardest language to learn is also the most widely spoken native language in the world. ...
  2. Arabic. ...
  3. Polish. ...
  4. Russian. ...
  5. Turkish. ...
  6. Danish.
25 Feb 2021

What are the 4 hardest languages? ›

Let's explore the 10 hardest languages for English speakers to learn, and the challenges they deliver:
  1. Mandarin. Mandarin is spoken by 70% of the Chinese population, and is the most spoken language in the world. ...
  2. Arabic. ...
  3. 3. Japanese. ...
  4. Hungarian. ...
  5. Korean. ...
  6. Finnish. ...
  7. Basque. ...
  8. Navajo.
16 Sept 2022

What are the top 3 hardest languages to speak? ›

8 Hardest Languages to Learn In The World For English Speakers
  • Mandarin. Number of native speakers: 1.2 billion. ...
  • Icelandic. Number of native speakers: 330,000. ...
  • 3. Japanese. Number of native speakers: 122 million. ...
  • Hungarian. Number of native speakers: 13 million. ...
  • Arabic. Number of native speakers: 221 million. ...
  • Polish.
22 Jan 2021

What are 5 facts about Vietnam? ›

  • OFFICIAL NAME: Socialist Republic of Vietnam.
  • FORM OF GOVERNMENT: Socialist republic.
  • CAPITAL: Hanoi.
  • POPULATION: 97,040,334.
  • OFFICIAL LANGUAGE: Vietnamese.
  • MONEY: Dong.
  • AREA: 127,123 square miles (329,247 square kilometers)
  • MAJOR MOUNTAIN RANGE: Annam Cordiller.

What makes Vietnamese unique? ›

Part of the East Asian cultural sphere, Vietnamese culture has certain characteristic features including ancestor veneration and worship, respect for community and family values, and manual labor religious belief. Important cultural symbols include 4 holy animals: Dragons, Turtles, Phoenix, Unicorn.

What are Vietnamese known for? ›

Vietnam is known for being a popular tourist destination because of its beautiful beaches, it's culture, amazing food (like pho), and friendly people. Vietnam is also famous for the Vietnam War, motorbikes (86% of households have one), Vietnamese coffee, floating markets and rice terraces.

What are the Top 5 easiest languages? ›

5 easy languages to learn
  • English. It's the most widely spoken language in the world, making practice possible. ...
  • French. French has over 100 million native speakers and is – as the official language in 28 countries – spoken on almost every continent. ...
  • Spanish. ...
  • Italian. ...
  • Swahili.
29 Feb 2016

What is the top 10 easiest language? ›

10 Easiest Languages for English Speakers to Learn
  1. Afrikaans. Like English, Afrikaans is in the West Germanic language family, once thought of as a Dutch dialect. ...
  2. French. Ah, the language of love. ...
  3. Spanish. ...
  4. Dutch. ...
  5. Norwegian. ...
  6. Portuguese. ...
  7. Swedish. ...
  8. Italian.
3 Nov 2022

What language is closest to English? ›

The closest language to English is one called Frisian, which is a Germanic language spoken by a small population of about 480,000 people. There are three separate dialects of the language, and it's only spoken at the southern fringes of the North Sea in the Netherlands and Germany.

What language is Vietnamese closest to? ›

More than half of the Vietnamese vocabulary can be traced back to Chinese. Thai has also taken some loan words from the official language of China. This is why the two languages have shared vocabularies. There are plenty of terms that are the same in both languages.

Is Vietnamese good in English? ›

Vietnam scored an average of 54.06 on a scale of 100, standing behind Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, India, South Korea and Hong Kong in Asia, according to the index.

What level language is Vietnamese? ›

There is a Vietnamese Language Proficiency Test in Vietnam called NLTV, abbreviation of “Năng lực Tiếng Việt.” “Tiếng” means language. “Việt” means Vietnam.
How many levels does NLTV test have?
Elementary LevelA1Level 1
Intermediate LevelB1Level 3
B2Level 4
Advanced LevelC1Level 5
C2Level 6
1 more row
25 Mar 2021

How fast can you learn Vietnamese? ›

According to the US's Foreign Service Institute (FSI), for a native English speaker to be proficient in Vietnamese, it would take approximately 1,110 class hours. This means that if you dedicate 1 hour every day, 7 days a week to learn Vietnamese, you will be proficient after 40 months (~3 years).

What language has the most tones? ›

In the most widely spoken tonal language, Mandarin Chinese, tones are distinguished by their distinctive shape, known as contour, with each tone having a different internal pattern of rising and falling pitch. Many words, especially monosyllabic ones, are differentiated solely by tone.

What do you call someone from Vietnam? ›

Vietnamese people / Kinh people. người Việt / người Kinh.

What does Nguyen mean in Vietnam? ›

Nguyen is the most common surname in Vietnam and among the top 100 last names in the United States, Australia, and France. Meaning "musical instrument" and actually rooted in Chinese, Nguyen is an interesting name that you'll encounter throughout the world. Alternate spellings include Nyguyen, Ruan, Yuen, and Yuan.

Is it too late to learn Vietnamese? ›

Jeannie Messer grew up isolated from the culture and language of her Vietnamese mother. But at 47 and with a family of her own, she found it was never too late to learn.

Is French still taught in Vietnam? ›

After 1954, French fell into disuse in North Vietnam, and maintained a high status in South Vietnam. Since the Fall of Saigon in 1975, French has declined in modern Vietnam: in 2018, under 1% of the population was fluent in French.
Influence on Vietnamese.
xăng, ét-xăngessencegasoline
41 more rows

What is the third hardest language to learn? ›

3. Japanese Comes In The List Of Top 10 Hardest Languages To Learn. Belonging to the top 10 hardest languages to learn, Japanese is more comfortable speaking compared to Mandarin, but what makes it exist in this list? Japanese has a wide range of alphabets that need to be learned before writing in this language.

How do you say thank you in Vietnamese? ›

In Vietnamese, “Thank you” is Cảm ơn.

Is Vietnamese related to any language? ›

Once known as Annamese, Vietnamese is part of the huge Austro-Asiatic language tree. That means it comes from similar roots as Khmer in Cambodia and several other languages spoken by minority groups in the surrounding regions.

Is pointing rude in Vietnam? ›

As in many places, it's rude to point with your index finger in Vietnam. To be polite, use your pinky finger when you want to point to something. Pointing with an open hand, palm facing down, is even more polite, but it's a bit overboard for most situations.

Is eye contact rude in Vietnam? ›

Vietnamese people typically avoid direct eye contact and may gaze downward when talking. Avoiding eye contact demonstrates respect to elders, people of higher status or of the opposite sex. Speaking in a loud tone with excessive gestures is considered rude, especially when done by women.

Is the G in Vietnamese silent? ›

g,gh is pronounced like a hard guttural 'g' as in goat, but slighted aspirated like the Scottish 'ch' in 'loch'. gi is pronounced like 'z' as in zebra (Northern Vietnamese), or 'y' as in 'young' (Southern Vietnamese).

What is the 7 hardest language to learn? ›

At the same time, for some other speaker with different characteristics, that same languages will be a lot harder to learn.
7 Most Difficult Languages to Learn for Native English Speakers
  • 1 – Chinese (Mandarin)
  • 2 – Arabic.
  • 3 – Japanese.
  • 4 – Korean.
  • 5 – Hungarian.
  • 6 – Finnish.
  • 7 – Xhosa.
7 Feb 2020

What is oldest language in the world? ›

1. Egyptian – 2690 BC (circa. 4700 years old) The first known language ever was a proto-language on the African continent, and the first known proto-writing system was created in Nigeria. So, it is perhaps no surprise that the oldest language on this list is also from and used in Africa – Egyptian.

What is the 20 hardest language to learn? ›

The Hardest Languages in the World to Learn
  • Arabic.
  • Russian.
  • Korean.
  • Navajo.
  • Finnish.
  • Vietnamese.
  • Mongolian.
  • Hungarian.

What is the 2nd hardest language to learn? ›

2. Arabic. Arabic is the queen of poetic languages, the 6th official language of the UN and second on our list of toughest languages to learn.

What is the hardest language for a child to learn? ›


Though Mandarin is the most spoken language in the world, it has been notorious for being one of, if not the, most difficult language to learn for English speakers.

Which language is best to learn? ›

The Most Important Languages To Learn In 2021
  1. Mandarin Chinese. With over one billion Mandarin Chinese speakers in the world, of course it tops the list of most important languages to learn in 2021. ...
  2. Spanish. ...
  3. German. ...
  4. French. ...
  5. Arabic. ...
  6. Russian. ...
  7. Portuguese. ...
  8. 8. Japanese.

What is the top 10 most spoken language in the world? ›

The most spoken languages in the world
  • English (1,132 million speakers) Native speakers: 379 million. ...
  • Mandarin (1,117 million speakers) ...
  • Hindi (615 million speakers) ...
  • Spanish (534 million speakers) ...
  • French (280 million speakers) ...
  • Arabic (274 million speakers) ...
  • Bengali (265 million speakers) ...
  • Russian (258 million speakers)
22 Oct 2022

What is the fifth hardest language to learn? ›

5 of the most hardest languages to learn in the world
  • Mandarin.
  • Japanese.
  • Arabic.
  • Xhosa.
  • Russian.
13 Apr 2022

Can you learn a new language at 50? ›

Learn a Language in Your Fifties: It's Never Too Late to Get Started. There's some truth to what the naysayers are telling you. Neuroplasticity does decrease with age, and learning a language in your fifties might prove to be more challenging than learning it in elementary school.

What is the hardest language to learn 2022? ›

Chinese (Mandarin Chinese & Cantonese)

Mandarin Chinese and Cantonese are widely spoken languages, Mandarin being the second most spoken language in the world. They are considered to be some of the hardest languages to learn. This is primarily because of their complex writing systems, which use thousands of characters.

Which is easier Chinese or Vietnamese? ›

Which Is Easier To Learn Chinese Or Vietnamese? To English speakers, Vietnamese seems to be easier to learn than the Mandarin language. FSI put Mandarin in the category 'super-hard languages' that requires a native English speaker 2,200 hours to be fluent, while the Vietnamese just requires 1,100 hours.

Is Vietnamese fun to learn? ›

All people who study with us learn Vietnamese for one reason: it's fun. (And of course, to be able to communicate with local Vietnamese too). We made a video to show you a fun way to memorize Vietnamese words, this is another one: words that are made by strangely combining two words together that sound funny.

Why should I learn Vietnamese? ›

Knowing basic Vietnamese helps you get around places much easier and prevent you from getting lost or even scammed in a foreign country. Preparing yourself with some essential phrases enables you to feel more confident in ordering local food at the restaurant or getting good deals from bargaining.

What are 5 interesting facts about Vietnam? ›

5 strange facts about Vietnam
  • Ho Chi Minh's body is on display. Ho Chi Minh (known affectionately as 'Uncle Ho') travels 8000 miles every year. ...
  • They have their own sport. ...
  • Motorbikes cover the roads. ...
  • Speed dating began here. ...
  • There are different types of temples.
12 Dec 2016

What's special about Vietnamese? ›

Part of the East Asian cultural sphere, Vietnamese culture has certain characteristic features including ancestor veneration and worship, respect for community and family values, and manual labor religious belief. Important cultural symbols include 4 holy animals: Dragons, Turtles, Phoenix, Unicorn.


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