The first time you look at Vietnamese writing you might be surprised at all the tones written below or above the letters. If you are learning Vietnamese I am sure one of the first things you need to know is THE TONES.
There are six tones in Vietnamese (although only five are used in the South), each of which is represented by a different diacritical mark.
Ngang (no tone
mark): Mid-tone (ma = ghost)
Sắc: High-rising tone (má = mother)
Huyền: Low- falling tone (mà = but)
Hỏi: Low-rising tone (mả = tomb)
Ngã: High-broken tone (mã = horse)
Nặng: Low-broken tone (mạ = rice seedling)
Some of my foreign friends have been living in Vietnam for years but they still can’t realize whether I speak a word with the tone of not (and they usually make fun of that). The same thing comes when they speak, if I don’t put the word in context, it is easy to misunderstand. So tones play an important role in distinguishing lexical items in the Vietnamese language.
Have you had problems with the tones and spoken Vietnamese? Let’s share :D