For as long as Mailart 365 has been running, February has traditionally been “Alphabet month” and so this year, as we’re in Hanoi and learning Vietnamese, I thought I’d do the Vietnamese alphabet.
The Vietnamese alphabet has 29 letters in it, so I really should have done this 2 years ago as there are one too many letters for a standard February. However, 2 years ago, I couldn’t read Vietnamese, so this would have been impossible.
One of the first complications for language learners of Vietnamese is the pronouns. The problem is that there is no fixed term for “I” or “you”, but the pronoun changes depending on whether the person you are speaking to is older or younger than you. The choice of pronoun is crucial as it also shows the requisite amount of respect, so if you get it wrong and, for example call someone older “em” (meaning “younger person”) you could make a social faux-pas.
So the one I try and use most often when talking to older (looking) men is “anh” which means “Older brother”. I’ve found that, as a general rule, this is usually a safe bet when talking to guys who are not children or haven’t got wrinkles.
This A is pronounced like the A at the start of the name Anne.
The word “Anh” also means something else in Vietnamese. It means “English”. When my parents landed in England they wanted me to fit in, hence they didn’t make me talk Vietnamese, but encouraged me to talk English. I heard that they chose my name, Andrew, because it has the word “Anh” in it, so that I would be “The English One”