Are you a native Vietnamese speaker who:

  • struggles with pronouncing the final sounds in words like different, liked, and last?
  • has difficulty speaking American English with appropriate fluency, connections, and intonation? 
  • is confused about the syllable stress patterns of long words in American English, like scientifically, Wednesday, and mischievous


American English Pronunciation for Vietnamese Speakers: Top 5 Pronunciation Challenges

If you are a native speaker of Vietnamese and you struggle with American English pronunciation, then this resource is for you. Here you’ll learn 5 of the most common pronunciation challenges that native speakers of Vietnamese experience when speaking English, and you’ll learn how to improve your pronunciation of American English.


Read about the top 5 pronunciation areas below, and then watch the free English pronunciation video lessons to learn how to pronounce each sound. Don’t forget to click here to download your free Guidebook to the Sounds of American English, too!


Vietnamese Challenge #1: Final Consonant Sounds

Native Vietnamese speakers tend to struggle with pronouncing the final consonant sounds in American English, especially when syllables and words end in /z, s, t, v/, such as the “ed” in the word checked, the “t” in the phrase it was, and the “es” in the word misses. They may also struggle with pronouncing consonant clusters, which is when two or more consonants appear next to each other in the same syllable, such as the “st” in the word last and the “br” in the word bread.


Many native speakers of Vietnamese ultimately delete these final consonant sounds completely, which can cause a lot of confusion for native speakers of American English. The final consonant sound often conveys important grammatical information, such as the final -s in the word Katie’s, which is a possessive -s, or the final -ed in the word liked, which is the past tense marker.

Click here for a PDF on How to Link Consonants and Vowels in American English


These types of mispronunciations can result in the listener perceiving both a pronunciation mistake and a grammar mistake, which causes these types of errors to be even more noticeable than a pronunciation error alone.


How to Pronounce Final Consonants in American English

There are many final consonants that can occur in the pronunciation of American English words, such as those listed at the beginning of this section. However, it may be helpful to begin practicing some specific word endings in English, such as the final -s ending and the final -ed ending, as well as learning how to use final consonants to link syllables and words together in spoken English.


To start learning how to pronounce final consonants in English, watch the videos below. Or you can read about how to pronounce final consonants by clicking here: Pronounce the Past Tense Like a Native Speaker; Never Delete This Sound; Linking in Connected Speech.

Vietnamese Challenge #2: Syllable Stress

Vietnamese and American English differ greatly in terms of word length, syllable stress, and syllable structures. Therefore, many native speakers of Vietnamese struggle with pronouncing multisyllabic words in American English, with both the pronunciation of the vowels and consonants and with placing the correct stress on the correct syllable.


In general, most Vietnamese words contain two syllables, and each syllable receives the same amount of stress for the same duration of time.


The rules of syllable stress are much different in American English. English contains a variety of 3+ syllable words, and the syllable that receives the primary stress can be in any number of positions (the first syllable, second syllable, third syllable, etc.). To make things even more confusing, the syllables in any given word are pronounced with varying levels of stress and duration. For example, unstressed syllables are shorter and said at a lower pitch, while stressed syllables are longer and said at a higher pitch.


Click here to download a PDF of Syllables and Stress in American English


Because the rules of syllable stress are so different between the two languages, native speakers of Vietnamese may pronounce American English by giving the same amount of stress to each syllable, or pronounce the syllables without any stress at all. This type of pronunciation pattern can be confusing for a speaker of American English since syllable stress is vital to understanding spoken language.


Click here to download a PDF of Stress in Sentences in American English


How to Pronounce American English Syllable Stress

Stress can be signaled in spoken English by changing the pitch, volume, and/or duration of a syllable. Stressed syllables are often higher in pitch, longer in duration, and slightly louder in volume than unstressed syllables. Unstressed syllables can also be reduced, and if that happens, the vowel in the unstressed syllable typically changes to the schwa /ə/ vowel or the IH /ɪ/ vowel.


To begin learning the rules of American English stress patterns, watch the videos below. Or you can read about American English stress by clicking here: The Three Types of Syllable Stress; Pronounce BIG Words in American EnglishUnstressed Syllables and Word Reductions.

Vietnamese Challenge #3: Intonation

Vietnamese is a tonal language, and it includes six tones (though some speakers don’t pronounce all of them). Each tone has a different pitch and intonation, with each specific tone conveying a specific meaning. 


American English is similar in that it also uses changes in vocal pitch to convey meaning, but the way in which this occurs is very different. American English uses changes in pitch (also called intonation) at the word level to convey syllable stress: stressed syllables are typically higher in pitch, unstressed syllables are typically lower in pitch. And at the sentence level, American English uses changes in pitch to convey word stress, rhythm, and overall meaning: a sentence that ends with downward pitch is typically a statement, while a sentence that ends with upward pitch is typically a question.


Learning the specific rules of American English intonation can be quite challenging for native speakers of Vietnamese, since the two languages differ greatly in this area, and using even a slightly different intonation pattern can lead to confusion for the listener. For example, if a speaker of Vietnamese uses an intonation pattern that moves too high too quickly, this can be unintentionally perceived as annoyance or rudeness to the ears of a native speaker of American English.


How to Pronounce American English Intonation

There are many guidelines a speaker can follow when learning the rules of American English intonation. To start learning more about American English intonation patterns, watch the videos below. Or you can read about American English intonation by clicking here: American English Intonation of Statements and Questions; Sound Natural and Native with Intonation Templates; 3 Powerful Techniques to Boost your Intonation.

Vietnamese Challenge #4: Voice Placement

Have you heard of voice placement before? Placement refers to the place in the body where the voice resonants or vibrates - where the voice appears to be “coming from”. While it’s true that the vibration of the voice comes from the vibration of the vocal cords in the throat, the places inside the body above the vocal cords, like the inside of the throat, mouth, and nose, contribute to the overall placement of that vibration.


Different languages use different voice placements. Some languages are spoken with a front placement, almost like the sounds resonate from the lips, such as Spanish and French. Other languages, such as American English, seem to resonate between the middle of the mouth and upper chest, with a small amount of nasal resonance. 


Click here for a PDF of Voice Placement Exercises: Resonatory Exercises


Voice placement may not seem real at first, but I promise you, placement is a huge part of an accent, and it influences how the sounds, syllables, and intonation of a language are pronounced.


Click here for a PDF of Voice Placement Exercises: Phonatory Exercises


The voice placement of Vietnamese tends to be high in the head with more nasality than what is found in American English. And when native speakers of Vietnamese use this higher/nasal placement when speaking English, it may cause some listeners to wonder, “Where is that person from?” 


How to Pronounce American English Voice Placement

Voice placement may take longer to learn due to the inability to actually see any of the muscles that are involved in producing the placement itself. You must rely more on how it feels when you speak American English (low, relaxed, effortless) and how it sounds when you speak American English (low, relaxed, effortless). 


To begin learning about American English placement, watch the videos below. Or you can read about American English placement by clicking here: American English Voice Placement; Voice Placement: Front Vowels; The Basics of Voice Production Part 4: Resonatory Exercises.

Vietnamese Challenge #5: American English Grammar

Vietnamese and American English differ greatly in terms of grammar, and these differences can lead to many pronunciation challenges for native speakers of Vietnamese. 


The first grammatical difference that can be challenging is with the verb “to be”. Vietnamese has an equivalent verb, , but it isn’t used in the same way as “to be” is used in English. In American English, you use “to be” to link a subject to its adjective, like in the sentence, He is sleepy. In Vietnamese, this same sentence would be He sleepy when translated into English. This type of grammatical difference results in Vietnamese speakers omitting the verb “to be” when speaking English.


Another grammatical difference is with the use of articles. Vietnamese does not use articles, but American English does, such as a, an, and the in the sentences This is a houseI drove the car, and She ate an apple. Vietnamese speakers may either omit articles completely when speaking American English (She ate apple instead of She ate an apple), or they may use an article when it isn’t needed (I went to the work today instead of I went to work today).


How to Learn American English Grammar

The best way to learn American English grammar is to imitate the speech of native speakers of American English, even if you’re not sure of the grammatical rules. By focusing on imitating what you hear, you’ll begin learning the rhythm of American English and the natural way in which grammatical structures like articles and the verb “to be” are pronounced in conversations.


To begin learning American English grammar, watch the videos below. Or you can read about American English grammar by clicking here: Learn American English Reductions and Rhythm with Seinfeld!; Learn American English with The Office; Top 10 Reductions of the word “have”.

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