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Sapa | © Jorge Cancela / Flickr
Sapa | © Jorge Cancela / Flickr
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11 Commonly Mispronounced Places in Vietnam

Picture of Piumi Rajapaksha
Updated: 17 March 2018
It’s easy to mispronounce Vietnamese words, even if their alphabet uses English letters. Here are the names of some places that people often get wrong, and the correct way to pronounce them.

Vietnam

You wouldn’t think Vietnam is something people mispronounce, but it is! The first two syllables are usually always said correctly (unless you’ve met someone who says Vy-et…in which case, no), but it’s the last syllable that gets said in either one of two ways. The nam can be pronounced like Pam, or I am, but it is actually pronounced like nahm. Altogether, it would be Vee-et-nahm.

My Lai

Another commonly mispronounced name is My Lai. Does this ring a bell? The My Lai massacre happened during the Vietnam War, in March, 1968. The members of the “Charlie” Company of the United States’ 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, raped, tortured, and murdered hundreds of innocent residents of the tiny village of My Lai for no reason, including the elderly, women, and children. Not only were the people butchered, but years later, the name of the event gets butchered as well. My Lai is not pronounced like it is your lie. Well, perhaps if you were a pirate and instead of my, you say me. So, it’s Mee Lie. The Lai is not lee, either.

Ha Giang

This one is tough. Ha Giang is a gorgeous mountainous province in the north of Vietnam (forget Sapa), known for some of the best views in the world. It’s not a very touristy place, hence why you come across many people who don’t know how to pronounce it.

First and foremost, don’t pronounce Ha Giang like it’s written—it’s not Ha Gee-ung/ang. Nor is it Ha-Yang. The proper pronunciation of this province is Ha Zhung or Ha Jung.

Hue

Yes, Hue can refer to a color shade. But it is also a coastal city in Vietnam, a little north of Da Nang. It used to be the ancient capital and is now a popular stop in the tourist circuit of Vietnam. We won’t laugh if you’ve pronounced it like He-you when you first encountered the name. In Vietnam, you can hear it said in two different ways: huey and way. The latter seems to be the most correct, with a silent h.

Da Nang

Da Nang has been voted the best city to live in, in Vietnam. It’s fresh, has good infrastructure, food, beaches, and mountains. Da Nang is also easy to mispronounce, and many, many people do it. You’ve probably heard someone pronounce the second half of the name like tang, but nope—it’s actually supposed to be nung.

My Son Temples

These are a gorgeous complex of ancient ruins that were of political and religious importance to the Champa civilization that once reigned over the majority of coastal Vietnam. They are referred to as the Angkor Wat of Vietnam, however not as grand in size. You can easily mispronounce the name as it is written: My Son. But as with My Lai, the My is pronounced as Mee, and the Son as Sern, with a silent r. So, Me-Sern.

Nha Trang

Nha Trang is another coastal city that is popular for its awesome beaches, diving, and high-end resorts literally everywhere, culminating in a perfect getaway. We’ve heard the name pronounced in multiple ways like Nuh Trang or Nuh Trung, but the Nha is Nya, and the Trang is Traing, like, dang.

Tan Son Nhat International Airport

It’s good to know how to pronounce the airport you are flying into, or departing from—what if you need to take a taxi from your hotel in Ho Chi Minh City to the airport and you end up confusing the taxi driver? Tan Son Nhat is not so hard to pronounce. The Tan is pronounced like bun, the Son like Sern in My Son, and the Nhat like Nyut.

Mekong Delta

The Mekong Delta is a popular southern getaway. It’s a great place to get on a boat and row yourself through the little canals and tributaries of the giant Mekong river, surrounded on all sides by rice paddies, fruit orchards, and stilt houses. People tend to say something along the lines of May-Kong, but this one is easy, and it’s pronounced just the way it’s written: Me-Kong.

Can Tho

The name of the capital city of the Mekong Delta is often butchered, and we have barely heard foreigners say it correctly. You can’t pronounce this one like it’s written; instead, it’s a bit like Kun Thuh. The k has to be somewhere between a k and a g.

Cai Rang Floating Market | © Jean-Marc Astesana/Flickr
Cai Rang Floating Market | © Jean-Marc Astesana / Flickr

Phu Quoc

Last but not least, there’s Phu Quoc. There are many words in Vietnamese that end with –oc or –uc, and it blew our minds when we found out that the c is not pronounced like a c, but rather as a p, when used as a suffix. So Phu Quoc becomes Foo Ku-op.

You can extend this rule to the popular cafe brand you see scattered around the main cities: Phuc Long. Phuc is pronounced as Phoop, and the Long is pronounced as Lum, like bum. Get your mind out of the gutter.