Hard at Work in Vietnamese


In the United States, Asians are regarded as one of the most hard-working, diligent, and industrious groups.

To keep up that reputation, let’s talk about work today.

(And even if you’re not diligent at learning Vietnamese, let’s still take a look so you know how to tell other people what you do in a Vietnamese conversation later. There’s no harm and Looking is Free)

[Bạn] làm gì? / [Bạn] làm nghề gì? What do you do? What occupation do you do?

Tôi là…[job] — I am… —  substitute [job] with your job, unless you’re actually a Job (you know which one I’m talking about)

Tôi làm nghề … [field of occupation] — I work a job in … [field of occupation] such as quảng cáo (advertising), công nghệ thông tin (info technology), kinh doanh (business, commerce), thời trang (fashion), báo chí (newspaper and magazine), thể thao (sports),  etc.

Sometimes when there is no Vietnamese equivalent for an English job, you can use Tôi làm nghề… instead of Tôi là…[job]

[Tôi] đi làm ở … [location or name of place] — I work at … [location or name of place]

And here’s the top 10+ jobs that a stereotypical Asian may have (my family and close relatives actually fill out this list as typical Asians):

bác sĩ dược sĩ nha sĩ y tá kĩ sư
doctor pharmacist dentist nurse engineer
kế toán lập trình viên giáo viên giáo sư luật sư
accountant IT programmer/developer school teacher professor lawyer

And some jobs that you usually don’t find a whole lot of Asians doing (most likely in the arts):

nghệ sĩ họa sĩ nhạc sĩ ca sĩ diễn viên
artist (in general) painter musician singer actor/actress
kiến trúc sư vận động viên nhà văn nhà báo nhiếp ảnh gia
architect athlete writer journalist photographer

In Vietnam, a lot of people are nông dân (farmer) and công nhân (factory worker).

In the States, you’ll find a lot of Vietnamese working in nail salon. It’s called làm nail, coz there’s no equivalent in Vietnam/Vietnamese.

Freelancer – làm nghề tự do in Vietnamese implies that you do shady stuff for a living in Vietnam 🙂 so don’t make that mistake, thinking that, for example, you being a freelance web designer will translate into làm nghề tự do in Vietnamese. A web designer is thiết kế trang web; graphic designer is thiết kế đồ họa.

Guess what I do? Giáo viên và dịch giả, and yeah, I freelance from time to time but well, see above 🙂

And homework for you: What do the following people do? Những người sau đây làm nghề gì?

1. Ba mẹ của bạn

2. Bạn thân của bạn

3. Anh họ, chị họ, em họ của bạn

4. Ông bà của bạn

5. Bạn làm nghề gì? 🙂

6. Bạn có thích công việc của mình không? Tại sao?

If your occupation is not mentioned here, use the online free dictionary vdict.com to look up what you need.

If you’re still in school, we’ll cover that next.

After all, Vietnamese is Asian. Therefore, we’re studious and hardworking 🙂


8 responses »

  1. hehehe, I can finally be able to talk about people’s futures when I go back to Vietnam. They always ask me what I want to do when I grow up/what I’m going to school for.
    My answer: Trong tương lai, tôi hy vọng làm dược sĩ. (I’m serious; I DO intend to go for Pharmacy).

    My answer brings an odd question; Is there a word in Vietnamese than means “to be”? Example: “I want to be a pharmacist”. “I want to be a bird”. “I don’t want to be crazy.”

  2. that “to be” is like “to become”
    it’s “làm or “thành”
    tôi muốn làm/thành dược sĩ – I want to be/become a pharmacist
    tôi muốn làm/thành chim – I want to be/become a bird

    the last one is slightly different
    it’s more like you don’t want something bad to happen to you
    that “to be” is “bị”
    tôi không muốn bị điên/khùng – I don’t want to be crazy
    tôi không muốn bị ốm – I don’t want to be sick
    anh ấy bị xe tông – he got hit by a car

    (btw the opposite of “bị” is “được”
    you use it when something good happens to you
    tôi hy vọng được trường y nhận – I hope to be accepted by med school
    tôi mong năm mới được nhiều may mắn – I want to get lots of good luck in the new year)

    “bị” and “được” are common in passive sentence

  3. and I think you give me enough ideas for a whole month’s worth of lessons 🙂

    I carefully choose the textbooks that I use to teach my students in class (Vietnamese for Beginners by Jake Catlett and Chung ta noi), but they always ask me a ton of questions because what they need can’t be found in the textbooks
    somehow even the intermediate level books don’t fully cover everything
    and the lessons always have an out-of-date flavor
    when I prepare a lesson I always think “how much of this lesson is useful in real life?” and “what else is missing in this particular topic?”
    and that’s how the blog came about

  4. Thanks!
    Hahaha, When it comes to learning more languages, I think textbooks are not a good choice because people tend to have the mindset of following guidelines. For me, I like to experience (see & hear) the language in action. That’s why I read Doremon Vietnamese comic books and watch Hoai Tam comedy. Then I come to you for help! lol

  5. Whoa, I didn’t know “bị” and “được” are opposites when I think about it. So if “bị” implies something negative, then how can you translate “I don’t want to suffer the heat!” (I might have to say this when I go back to VN)

    Also, this one is kinda random: How would you say “I’m going to miss being able to afford food.” (For example, I might say this when all of my money is going down the drain.)

  6. trời nóng quá chịu không nổi – too hot can’t stand the heat :))

    trời ơi hết tiền mua đồ ăn rồi – run out of money to buy food

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