Improve your spelling

It’s fairly easy to learn how to read Vietnamese words aloud. It’s a bit trickier spelling them due to letters which can sound similar like a and ă, or are essentially the same like gi- and d-.

However you can improve your spelling with practice.

Tip #1: Write more

Because I learnt a lot of my basic Vietnamese by talking to friends, my spelling used to be awful.

My spelling used to suck

My spelling sucked until I started to practice writing

By getting your writing corrected and learning how to spell the words you got wrong, you can drastically improve your spelling.

Sometimes you’ll be able to remember these corrections right away. Sometimes you’ll have to practice spelling the words until you can consistently get them right.

Tip #2: Use Memrise or Anki with an input box

You can review vocabulary and test your spelling with a flashcard system like You could also do this in Anki by creating a text input field and adding a third card to practise typing it.

Learn how to spell the words you get wrong

If you’ve done some writing and made a list of the words you got wrong, add them to a flashcard program so that you keep reviewing their spelling over time.

Use memrise to test your spelling

Words I’ve misspelt recently

Do this often and you’ll learn to spell common words correctly.

Learn to spell words correctly before you need them

Even now, there are a lot of Vietnamese words that I can say but can’t spell or can’t remember the tones for.

A good way to learn spell to familiar words like this is to download a deck in Anki or select a Memrise course with vocabulary you’ve already studied.


I’ve learnt about buildings but can I spell them all? Let’s see.

Practice the vocabulary through the Memrise system.

If you can spell the word correctly – great!

If you get it wrong, take note of the correct spelling and continue revising it in Memrise.


Is it ngoại thành or ngoài? Looks like I need to review this.

By reviewing words before you need them, you’ll improve your spelling and cut down on the number of words you have to look up in the dictionary.

Over to you: Do you struggle with spelling? How do you practice?

Vietnamese Music – 10 Pop Artists

Vietnamese musiciansMusic is a fun way to get in touch with Vietnamese culture and can even benefit your language learning.

But I have a confession…

When I lived in Vietnam I didn’t really listen to Vietnamese music. There are three main reasons.

  • There’s a weird phenomenon that most Vietnamese people sing with a Northern accent, no matter where they are from.
  • My teenage students were into K-Pop. That’s probably because…
  • Pop music isn’t really mainstream in Vietnam.

    The kind of songs popular with my friends were ballads and love songs, which are not my cup of tea. Vietnamese pop music is often criticised in the media for being too Western or too much like Korean pop music.

By the time I left Vietnam I only had 6 songs on my ‘Vietnamese music’ playlist. And one of those was a parody of a K-Pop song.

So I decided to investigate and see if I could find some Vietnamese pop music (aka V-Pop) which is called nhạc trẻ in Vietnamese.

10 Vietnamese Pop Musicians

Here are some of my favourite Vietnamese musicians, covering a range of styles.

Word of warning: Many of these songs have a catchy beat to them but are still quite melancholic.

Unfortunately a lot of the songs have been removed from download site Zing MP3. This page may be updated from time to time.

Read on, or view all 10 as a YouTube playlist.


He mostly sings ballads but there are some poppier songs like this one.

Download Forever Alone from Zing MP3.


Model-turned-R&B-singer Emily is both a solo artist and regularly teams up with other singers like JustaTee.

Download Dừng Lại Nhé from Zing MP3.

FB Boiz

A fun boyband based in Saigon who describe their music style as R&B and Hip Hop.

Download Em Có Biết from Zing MP3.

Đông Nhi

A soloist who composes many of her own songs.

Download Khi Mưa from Zing MP3

Trương Qùynh Anh

She mainly sings ballads, but this is a poppier song.

Download Hãy Bước Qua Nhau from Zing MP3.

Á Đông

Their sound is very Vietnamese but accompanied by a pop or dance soundtrack.

Downloads of Vầng Trăng Tình Yêu seem unavailable outside of VN.


A younger rapper. I’m not normally into rap but it’s refreshing to hear a Saigon accent!

Downloads of Hy Vọng Vô Hạn seem unavailable outside of VN.

Thái Tuyết Trâm

She sings several lovely acoustic covers of other Vietnamese songs.

Downloads of Tình Yêu Màu Nắng seem unavailable outside of VN.

Diễm Hương

She has an incredible voice. The first time I heard this song I got chills down my spine. It’s no wonder she was on Vietnam’s “The Voice”.

This is a good song to sing along to as it’s fairly slow and it’s easy to understand the basic message of the song.

Downloads of Who Cares seem unavailable outside of VN.

365 DaBand

This band have a Western or K-Pop vibe to them. They also occasionally sing in English, cover or mash-up English songs. Isaac also does solos.

Downloads of 365daband songs seem unavailable outside of VN.

Resources to continue exploring Vietnamese music

  • To find Vietnamese lyrics search for [title] lời bài hát or [title] lyrics (eg. Forever Alone lời bài hát).
  • For more V-Pop recommendations go here, here or for female singers here.
  • If you do like ballads, you’re in luck! There’s a huge range of them with English translations here.

Over to you: Do you listen to music in a foreign language? Do you like any Vietnamese musicians?

Unmissable Language Links – May 2014

Around the webSo much great content is written about language learning every month. Here’s my pick of unmissable articles from around the web.

Happy reading!

  • 9 Questions To Ask Your New Language Tutor

    “Working with a language tutor is something I can recommend for any language learners, especially introverts, because you’ll just get more out of the intense environment and focused attention.

    Even if you have never worked 1-to-1 before, you can easily to use it as a booster, for example before an exam or as a quick refresher after a quiet spell.

    But it’s important to get the chemistry and expectations right from the start, so take account of the following key points.”

    Read more

    – Kerstin Hammes on Fluent Language Tuition

  • 5 tips for remaining in control when speaking a foreign language

    “Most language learners have felt anxious at one time or another. I remember the first time I had to buy train tickets in China, I had to stand in a long queue at the station, and I was wondering whether the ticket seller would be able to understand what I was saying. As I got closer to the front of the queue, I got quite nervous! Fortunately, though, I got the message across fine!

    Whether you are just starting to speak to native speakers, you have to make a phone call in a foreign language, you have to make a speech in public or you just don’t feel that confident, here are some tips to help you stay in control.”

    Read more

    – Chris Parker on Fluent in Mandarin

  • Teaching Yourself a Language? Then Act Like a Teacher!

    “Even if you’re the model student, you need to act like the teacher once in a while. Why?

    Teaching is a profession for a reason — it takes thought and effort to effectively impart information to others. A lot of this time and effort manifests itself in a little something called lesson planning. A lesson plan is a road map not only of what needs to be learned, but also how best to learn it and how to check for comprehension at the end of it all. If you’re only playing the role of student, you’re probably not thinking too much about the “how,” but you should be.”

    Read more

    – Meaghan on Transparent Language

  • Planning my language projects

    “I created this plan some time ago in order to organize and keep track of my language learning projects. In this blog post I would like to give you some suggestions for your own planning and therefore I just guide you through my plan step by step and you can pick what fits best to you. ”

    Read more

    – Dani on I simply love languages

  • Although if you’re not a natural planner, don’t feel like you have to plan everything. In fact, you can change your life 13 minutes at a time.

    Set a timer for 13 minutes and have a go at that scary task – reading a Vietnamese article, start writing or tackle some flashcards.

    “Just start with 13 minutes, and see what happens.”
    – Nicole Antoinette

Over to you: What was your favourite language learning article this month? Or what was the top tip or piece of advice you discovered in May?

How an afternoon in a park taught me to pronounce ng-

Readers have been asking me questions about Vietnamese pronunciation. It’s an important part of learning Vietnamese but ‘pronunciation’ is a big topic. I was wondering how to tackle it until I read this pithy article last week about how to deal with your huge language problems.

The short answer? Get specific. Then tackle it one little bit at a time.

So today I’m going to tell you how I learnt to pronounce ng and how you can do it too.

some Vietnamese ng words

I started learning Vietnamese just a few days before I arrived in Vietnam. In some ways this was great because I was surrounded by native speakers from the beginning. If I didn’t pronounce something correctly, I’d be met with a blank look.

Even so, one month in there was one consonant sound that was still troubling me… ng-

I wanted to be able to say ngon (delicious) but my attempts to say the ng- sound were really hit and miss.

It all changed in an afternoon

One afternoon I was in a park in Saigon and chatting in English to some university students. During the conversation, I mentioned that I was learning Vietnamese. They encouraged me to say something so I said “Tôi là người Anh” (I’m English).

As you may have guessed, I didn’t pronounce người right. One student decided to teach me to say it.

She modelled the sound for me, showing me how her mouth was positioned as she simply said ng. After she did this a few times, she encouraged me to try.

Me:  ng
Her: Yes!
Me:  n
Her: No.
Me:  n
Her: No.
Me:  ng
Her: Yes!

This went on for a couple of minutes.

Little by little I started getting more yes’s than no’s. I also started hearing the difference myself and being able to tell when I was saying it correctly and when I wasn’t.

I kept practising for the rest of the week. One day it just clicked and since then I’ve had no trouble pronouncing ng. I’ve even taught other people to say it correctly.

How you can learn to pronounce ng- too

Start by listening to the sound ng, paying attention to how it should be formed in your mouth and how it should sound.

This video by Stuart Jay Raj explains it really well as even though only a few examples are Vietnamese, the Thai and Indonesian examples have a ng sound.

By the end of the video you should be able to say ng correctly, though you may still sometimes get it wrong like I used to. Keep on practising Vietnamese words beginning with ng

Here are some great examples for Vietnamese. If possible, ask a native speaker if you’re pronouncing it correctly.

Although this article is about ng, you can use the same technique with any sound, tone or word you are struggling with.

Over to you: What sounds do you find hard to say? What do you do to practice them?

12 topics to kickstart your Vietnamese writing

Choosing writing topics can be difficult Do you feel like you should write in Vietnamese, but you don’t really know what to write about?

Choosing the right topic enables you to practice your Vietnamese in a low-pressure setting. Writing gives you time to think about what you want to say, to build on what you’ve been learning and to try out new things.

But sometimes it can be hard to choose what to write about. If you pick the wrong topic for your interests or your level, it can frustrate you, kill your motivation and even cause you to give up and avoid writing.

It can be tricky to know what to write about. Here are 12 ideas to get you started.

  1. Make up a conversation

    This is a great one for beginners. It can be hard trying to write when you don’t have much language to work with, so go with what you know and write a fictitious dialogue between two friends or colleagues.

    Intermediate learners can also use this to practice different types of writing because you can vary how formal it is by changing characters. This can be a good way to check if you’re using slang or polite words like thưa in the right way.

  2. Keep a diary

    Write about your daily routine or recount something unique or different about your day. If you’re struggling at first, commit to just writing one sentence each day. It will get easier over time.

  3. Describe a trip or event

    Write about an interesting event like a dinner party or wedding you attended or describe a holiday or day trip you’ve been on.

  4. Practice vocabulary

    Think of sentences or stories based on new vocabulary you’ve come across.

    Eg. If you learn the word ‘leo’ (climb), you could write a few sentences about any mountains you’ve climbed, climbing trees when you were a kid, or why you’d never do either of those things.

  5. Write about a hobby

    Describe when and why you got started with one of your hobbies (or why you’re learning Vietnamese) and how often you practice it.

  6. Describe a familiar place

    Write about a place you know well – like where you grew up or went to university. As well as describing it physically, say what you like about it.

  7. Write about a local event

    Explain about a festival or annual event in your town, why it started and what usually happens.

  8. Comparisons

    Make a comparison between something in your country and that in Vietnam. Eg. differences in climate, eating habits, transport…

  9. Story summaries

    Summarise what you watch or read in your free time. Even if that film or book was in English or another language, you can still practice Vietnamese by describing the basic story, key events and why you liked (or didn’t like) it.

  10. Use the same topic as your study material

    Write your own take on a topic that you’ve seen/read about in Vietnamese.

    Eg. If you listen to someone describing their best friend, write about your own.

  11. Translate something
  12. Find a short article or letter that you’ve read in your native language and translate it into Vietnamese.

    This is a harder task than writing something directly in Vietnamese, but on the other hand you don’t have to think about what to say.

  13. Ask questions

    Ask questions in Vietnamese about the language or culture.

    If you wrote a sentence while chatting that you didn’t think was natural, rewrite it, ask questions and find out a better way to say it.

    Or you could ask about something you’ve read or pose a cultural question like if people really chew betel nuts.

    Post your questions on a peer-correction site like Lang-8 or iTalki*, wait for answers from native speakers and make it a discussion by responding to them.

Keep a list

Instead of trying to think of a topic every time you’re in the mood to write, keep a list of things you want to write about.

As you go about your daily life, look out for potential topics and jot them down. That way, when you’re in the mood to write you can simply look at your list and go with one of those ideas.

Over to you: Do you struggle to think of things to write about? Did this list of topics inspire you, if so… What’s your next piece of writing going to be about?

Photo credit: ralaenin