How to address your Vietnamese teacher (and yourself)

traitaoToday is Teacher’s Day in Vietnam. A day in which students show appreciation for their teachers with flowers or presents. A big thank you to all the teachers out there!

Vietnamese has many personal pronouns and how you address somebody depends on various factors such as your age and relationship with that person. Many people have covered these in depth.

You learn that certain words go together like anh-em, ông-con…

You may also learn about the words to address a teacher: cô for a woman and thầy for a man.

But how do you refer to yourself?

If you were a schoolchild, you would call yourself ‘con’. But as an adult, this isn’t appropriate.

If your teacher is quite a bit older than you then refer to yourself as ’em’. This is what university students use and what I use in my classes.

If your teacher is not so much older than you, your teacher may address you as ‘anh’ or ‘chị’. You could perhaps use ‘tôi’ but in the south it’s most common to use the more informal ‘tui’.

If your teacher is a similar age to or younger than you, you should still address your teacher as cô or thầy out of respect. Your teacher may address you as ‘bạn’. (This was the situation I was in when I briefly took a Korean class.) Ideally you should avoid addressing yourself with a pronoun. For example, instead of saying “anh/chị không hiểu” you’d say “không hiểu cô ơi”. This is a bit tricky, but it’s good to get used to as it can be useful in other situations.

If you’re still not really sure what to use, ask your teacher – that’s what they’re there for!

Happy Teacher’s Day!

Photo credit: lhys

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