Vietnamese is a member of the Vietic branch of the Austroasiatic language family. It is spoken mainly in Vietnam, and in Guangxi Province in southern China, and in Cambodia and Laos. There are also significant numbers of Vietnamese speakers in France, Australia, and the USA. In 2007 there were about 75 million speakers of Vietnamese.
Traditionally Vietnamese is classified as a member of the Mon-Khmer branch of the Austroasiatic language family. However, recently linguists have proposed that Vietnamese and Muong should be classified as a separate branch of that family, called Vietic or Viet-Muong.
Vietnamese is the official language of Vietnam, and is spoken by the majority of the population as a native language. Ethnic minority groups speak it as a second language. Vietnamese is also recognised as a minority language in the Czech Republic
During the period when Vietnam was dominated by China (939-1919) the main written language used, at least at first, was Classical Chinese (chữ nho), while Vietnamese was an oral language. Chinese texts were read with Vietnamese pronunciation, and many Chinese words were borrowed into Vietnamese, to create a Sino-Vietnamese form of language.
From about the 13th century, Vietnamese was written with a script adapted from Chinese known as Chữ-nôm (𡨸喃) or Nôm (喃). At first most Vietnamese literature was essentially Chinese in structure and vocabulary. Later literature developed a more Vietnamese style, but was still full of Chinese loan words. The greatest literary work in Vietnamese is Kim Van Kieu, the 'Tale of Kieu', a romance written by Nguyen-Du (1765-1820).
Chữ-nôm was used until the 20th century. Courses in the Chữ-nôm script were available at Ho Chi Minh University until 1993, and the script is still studied and taught at the Han-Nôm Institute in Hanoi, which has recently published a dictionary of all the nôm characters.
During the 17th century, Roman Catholic missionaries introduced a Latin-based orthography for Vietnamese, Quốc Ngữ (national language),which has been used ever since. Until the early 20th century, Quốc Ngữ was used in parallel with Chữ-nôm. Today only Quốc Ngữ is used.
Northern varieties of Vietnamese have the following six tones: varieties have five tones.
In central and southern varieties of Vietanamese, the nặng tone, which is pronounced [˨˧], and the ngã tone is replaced with the hỏi tone by many people.
You can hear how to pronounce the Vietnamese letters and tones at:
This script was officially adopted in June 2002, and it is taught in schools in Vietnam.
Tất cả mọi người sinh ra đều được tự do và bình đẳng về nhân phẩm và quyền lợi. Mọi con người đều được tạo hóa ban cho lý trí và lương tâm và cần phải đối xử với nhau trong tình anh em.
A recording of this text by Phan Tuấn Quốc (from south Vietnam)
A recording of this text by Nguyễn Văn Thắng (from north Vietnam)
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are
endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a
spirit of brotherhood.
(Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)
Information about the Vietnamese language
Online Vietnamese lessons
VietnamesePod101.com - Learn Vietnamese with Free Podcasts
Learn to Speak Vietnamese, in northern and southern accents, with Interactive Bilingual Lessons
Learn Northern Vietnamese or Southern Vietnamese with Glossika
Collections of Vietnamese phrases
Vietnamese Accents - automatically inserts Vietnamese accent marks
Vietnamese Electronic talking dictionaries
Native content for Vietnamese learners
If you need to type in many different languages, the Q International Keyboard can help. It enables you to type almost any language that uses the Latin, Cyrillic or Greek alphabets, and is free.