Four Things You Didn’t Know About Vietnamese

December 23, 2015 |

By Sarah-Claire Jordan

Vietnamese languageOther than being the national and official language of the country called Vietnam, a lot of people, particularly outside of Asia, don’t know very much about Vietnamese. It tends to be overshadowed by Japanese, Korean, and the many dialects of Chinese that are spoken by so many people in neighboring regions. However, Vietnamese has an equally interesting history and is spoken by more than 70 million people all over the world.

Besides Vietnam, the Vietnamese language is spoken in many other countries, including the U.S., France, the Czech Republic, Cambodia, China, and more. Here are four facts about Vietnamese that should help you get a better idea about the language:

  1. Chinese has had a huge influence on it

Given that what we now know as Vietnam was ruled by China for around 1,000 years, it is entirely plausible that many aspects of the Vietnamese language were influenced by Chinese. This includes much of the vocabulary as well as the first writing systems, which were based on Chinese characters. There are other languages that have left their mark on Vietnamese, such as French, but Chinese remains the one language that has molded Vietnamese the most over the years.

  1. It is a popular foreign language to study in some countries

Besides the fact that there are many Vietnamese language or bilingual schools in other countries that serve as important institutions to help ethnically Vietnamese students connect with their heritage, non-Vietnamese people are showing more and more interest in learning the language. In Germany, for example, Vietnamese has become an important language due to the large number of Germans making economic investments in Vietnam. This trend of learning Vietnamese for investment purposes may spread to other European countries in the future.

  1. There are five main Vietnamese dialects

Though linguists have generally divided Vietnamese into three different groups, more recently it has been divided a bit further to provide a more accurate categorization of the dialects. These are Northern Vietnamese, North-Central Vietnamese, Mid-Central Vietnamese, South-Central Vietnamese, and Southern Vietnamese. All dialects are generally mutually intelligible, except for some vocabulary differences. The main differences between dialects are the sounds used, though this only affects mutual intelligibility a little bit.

  1. It is written using a modified Latin script

As mentioned earlier, Vietnamese used to be written using a modified version of Chinese characters due to China’s rule over the area. Beginning in the 17th century, however, Portuguese missionaries introduced Vietnam to the Portuguese language and alphabet. This was used mostly within the Vietnamese Christian community, but under French colonial rule this Latinized Vietnamese writing system became the norm, to the point where the Chinese- based system was practically banned. To this day, there are very few people who can even read Vietnamese written in the old writing system based on Chinese.

Alpha Omega Translations is a translation, interpretation, and desktop publishing company dedicated to helping different communities communicate with each other, regardless of how common their languages are. Vietnamese is an important language, as it is the Austroasiatic language with the most speakers, and Alpha Omega Translations takes that into account when working with clients who need Vietnamese translation, interpretation, or desktop publishing.

For an overview of our translation expertise, visit our telephone interpreting service page

Tags: ,

Category: Foreign Language

Skip to content