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027 - Â is for ấy

I stopped talking Vietnamese when I was about 5 as I grew up in London and my parents wanted me to talk English and fit in, hence the English (albeit Vietnamese-influenced) name. As a result, my Vietnamese is quite stunted and, even though I know some pretty complex stuff, I lack quite a lot of basic vocabulary.

This is always a source of amazement for my Vietnamese teacher, as I come up with the oddest questions that foreign language learners don't ask.  One of these questions was "How do you say 'he' or 'she'?"

As I grew up with a limited number of Vietnamese friends, I rarely had to use pronouns other than those used to address my family. In Vietnamese, you can always refer to a person by their title, for example if I was referring to my brother I could call him "Anh" meaning brother, or my granddad, I would call "Ông". Another curiosity of Vietnamese is that you can also refer to yourself by your own name as there is no fixed pronoun for "I", so I could say "Andy thinks that..."

So somehow, I managed to get to age 34 without ever having to refer to anyone in the third person by simply using these workarounds.

As it turns out saying he or she is rather easy. First you have to figure out which pronoun you would use to refer to the person you're talking about. This is the hard part as there are a lot of pronouns to choose from, but I know most of them now and, if you've been following this series you know one too.

In this case, the girls are both younger than the guy, so they call him Anh. Then, because they're talking about him and not to his face, they call him Anh ấy as in "that guy (older brother)"

This type of a, the one with the hat on it â is pronounced like the letter A. As in, you make the sound "Ay". The eagle-eyed amongst you will have spotted that there's also a little grave accent on top of the letter, which in Vietnamese is called a rising tone.

Vietnamese is a tonal language and this is one of the hardest things that language learners have trouble with. Many folk just can't hear the difference, but as a "Viet Kieu", meaning a Vietnamese person born outside Vietnam, I have no problem with tones.

In this case, the rising tone means that this word "Ấy" is pronounced like the confused expression "eh?" in English.

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