Language Overview Essay


Vietnam is a hot country located in Southeast Asia - Language Overview Essay introduction. The Vietnamese folks belong to an ethnic group that came from the present southern China and northern Vietnam. They went southward towards the east of the Indochinese Peninsula. (Nationmaster, n.d.) Vietnamese is the official language of Vietnam. The Vietnamese people, who make up 86% of Vietnam’s total population, are native speakers of this language along with three million Vietnamese who live in foreign countries. “It is also spoken as a second language by some ethnic minorities of Vietnam.” (Nationmaster, n.d.) In all, around 68 million people speak Vietnamese as their first language whereas another 12 million communicate in Vietnamese as a second language. (Languages of Asia, n.d.) Other than in Vietnam, Vietnamese is also spoken in some parts of “Australia, Cambodia, Canada, China, Côte d’Ivoire, Finland, France, Germany, Laos, Martinique, Netherlands, New Caledonia, Norway, Philippines, Senegal, Thailand, United Kingdom, USA, Vanuatu.” (Languages of Asia, n.d.)

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Language family

A language family is a set of interconnected languages that have originated from a common proto-language. The Austro-Asiatic languages are a major language family used in India and Southeast Asia. Mon-Khmer is the autochthonous dialect of Indo-China and Viet-Muong comes under the classification of the Mon-Khmer subfamily of the Austro-Asiatic family. (Nationmaster, n.d.)

“Vietnamese is classified in the Viet-Muong group of the Mon-Khmer branch that belongs to the Austro-Asiatic language family.” (Nguyen et al, n.d.) Vietnamese also shares resemblance with languages that come under the classification of the Tai family. The Vietnamese language comprises of many Sino-Vietnamese words. Furthermore, Vietnamese was influenced in terms of vocabulary and syntax by the French language. (Nguyen et al, n.d.)


Most of the vocabulary in Vietnamese has been taken from Chinese. Moreover, it was initially written using the Chinese script. However, “to meet new historical demands, the syntax of both written and spoken Vietnamese changed considerably.” (Marr, 1984) The current Vietnamese writing system has been taken from the Latin alphabet. (Nationmaster, n.d.) Before the French rule, there were two Vietnamese scripts based on the Chinese writing system:

1. “The standard ideographic Chinese character set called chữ nho (scholar’s characters): used to write Literary Chinese
2. A complicated variant form known as chữ nôm (southern/vernacular characters) with characters not found in the Chinese character set.” (Vietnamese 101, n.d.)

Chữ nho was more common than chữ nôm as chữ nôm was used only by members of the educated elite. It must be noted that only those who can read chữ nho can read chữ nôm. Currently, none of these scripts is common in Vietnam, “and chữ nôm is near-extinct”. (Vietnamese 101, n.d.)


Nowadays, the Vietnamese language enjoys coverage in the media too. “DIRECTV, Inc., provider of the nation’s leading digital multichannel television service, and International Channel Networks (ICN) … announced that Saigon Broadcasting Television Network (SBTN), the first and only 24/7 Vietnamese-language channel originating in the United States, is now available on the new DIRECTV(R) VietnameseDirect(TM) service.” (DIRECTV and International Channel, 2004). Hence, it cannot be said that the Vietnamese language will face extinction in future.

Worldwide distribution of Vietnamese

██ Official

██ More than 1,000,000 speakers

██ More than 100,000 speakers

(Nationmaster, n.d.)


















DIRECTV and International Channel Networks Launch First Vietnamese-language Channel on DIRECTV Programming Service. (2004, Oct 5). Business Wire


Languages of Asia (n.d.)

Retrieved May 23, 2007, from


Marr, David G. (1984) Vietnamese Tradition on Trial, 1920-1945 .University of California Press


Nationmaster (n.d.)

Retrieved May 23, 2007, from


Nguyen, Thanh Bon, Nguyen, Thi Minh Huyen, Romary, Laurent, Vu, Xuan Luong (n.d.) Lexical descriptions for Vietnamese language processing

Retrieved May 23, 2007, from


Vietnamese 101 (n.d.)

Retrieved May 23, 2007, from



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