Vietnamese language characteristics & translation notes for employers

Vietnamese language in in the list of hardest languages to learn for some reasons. The grammar rules are difficult, and vocabularies can be understood differently depending on specific context.

Even native speakers might use inappropriate words, or amateur translators can make regular mistakes in translation from English to Vietnamese without recognizing the difference.

This article will be updated regularly and might be used as a reference source for employers to ascertain language translation quality management.

DIFFERENT DIALECTS

Vietnam geographically looks like an S-shape on map. This characteristic may have formed distinctions in culture and language. Its official language is Kinh Ethnic language – also called Vietnamese (while there are 54 ethnics nationwide). There are 3 main dialects for Vietnamese including North, Middle Region and South accents.

Please be advised in case you need to target and copywrite advertisements for a specific area, especially the Middle Region where the accents are most challenging and different.

TONES AND SYNTACTIC RELATION BETWEEN WORDS

6 different tones are used to distinguish words with identical consonant and vowel sequences. They may seem to look the same, but are different in meaning, for example:
năm: year, five ————– nam: male, boy
nằm: to lie on ————– nàm: to do (làm : northern accent)
nắm: to hold something ————– nấm: mushroom

The use of word order expresses the syntactic relations of words to each other, and the use of modifiers rather than affixes will express the tense. For example:
đi đứng: to go (the gesture & posture)
đi: to go (in its most natural meaning) ————– đứng: to stand
the combination of both words has nothing to do with ‘stand’, but it will indicate a difference in how a person move or notify something irregular. It can be split up and added with more words: đi với đứng, đi với chả đứng, đi đi đứng đứng, etc.

Dancing or playing with words can create different copywriting effects. If you want to make a masterpiece ads copy, simple translation will not be much helpful, try to localize it with helps from copywriters and native professional translators.

SALUTATIONS & CALLING

This should be careful in language use, business or daily communication, in writing emails or direct conversation.
An ‘I’ can be translated to: tôi, tao, em, anh, chị, chú, bác, cô, dì, con, etc., depending on your age, gender, relationship, society position, popularity, etc.
A ‘You’, similarly can be translated to: bạn, mày, em, anh, chị, chú, bác, cô, dì, con, etc.
A ‘We’ even more difficult, can be translated to: chúng tôi, chúng tớ, bọn tôi, tụi tao, chúng ta, mọi người. It should be known whether the speaker who says “we” include listeners or only him/her/themselves.

If you want to translate business letter or emails, make sure to check these points with your translator.

SIMILAR MEANING – DIFFERENT IN CONTEXT & USE

Some English words can mean different meanings, so does Vietnamese. As a result, one English word can be translated to different words, and meaning different things.

If you want to promote your product or service, the advertisement language or content is very important, but are you sure about that? Popular words in ads such as good, best, happy, strong, powerful can be translated right, with little changes in meaning, or with lots of missed effects.

For example, ‘good’ can mean:
đẹp (beautiful)
tốt (good quality, good characteristics)
tốt (kind – for person)
bền (durable)
hay (looks good, sounds good)
giỏi (learn well, do well – for person)
tuyệt (great)
tuyệt vời (greatest, wonderful)
được (acceptable)
etc….

Now you see, a better localization service may cost you more than a regular translation on financial term, but what may you lose in ROI term?

Comment and share your language case below 🙂

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