A Cincinnatian’s guide to pronouncing “Nguyễn”

So spot-on, your General American accent won’t even know what hit it

August 2013

If you call me “Win”, “N’Win”, “New Yen”, “New Gin”, or even “Nuh Guyin’ ”, I probably won’t notice until you read this article, come running to me, and profusely apologize for mispronouncing my name. It’d be news to me.

For the record, here’s how to say “Nguyễn” in a perfect northern Vietnamese accent:

  1. Say “thingy”. Don’t let yourself make a hard “g” sound, and don’t rhyme with “stingy”. Just say “thingy”.
  2. Drop the “th”. It should start off with a short “i” now. (The more silent you can make that vowel, the better.)
  3. Stick a “w” right before the “y”: “ingwy”. Remember: no “g” sound.
  4. Say “ingwy in”. Think of it as two words.
  5. Now for the tones. In Vietnamese, the meaning of a word changes depending on the pitch in your voice, among other things. By this point, you’ve learned how to say nguyên, which means “whole”. Now just say the whole thing incredulously, like so:
    Ingwy… in? Seriously?”

Seriously. That’s all there is to it.