Vietnamese language

Austroasiatic language originating in Vietnam

Vietnamese (tiếng Việt) is the official language of Vietnam. Like many other languages in Asia, Vietnamese is a tonal language.

tiếng Việt
Native toVietnam
Native speakers
75 million (2007)[1]
Latin (Vietnamese alphabet)
Vietnamese Braille
Chữ Nôm (historical)
Chữ Hán (historical)
Official status
Official language in
Association of Southeast Asian Nations
Recognised minority
language in
Language codes
ISO 639-1vi
ISO 639-2vie
ISO 639-3vie
Natively Vietnamese-speaking (non-minority) areas of Vietnam[3]
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.



Vietnamese has been strongly influenced by Chinese languages,[4] as more than 60% of Vietnamese words were borrowed from Chinese.[5] Though some of these words are used in everyday life, most Chinese loanwords are used mostly for special contexts, like Latin and Greek loanwords in English. It is closely related to the Khmer language, but Vietnamese had so many changes that the two languages can no longer be understood unless speakers of one language learn the other.

It now uses a Latin alphabet, or chữ Quốc ngữ, that is based on the French alphabet. It was created by European Jesuit missionaries so that the Bible and other Catholic books could be quickly translated into Vietnamese. For many centuries, only Vietnamese Catholics and Catholic missionaries to Vietnam used the Vietnamese-Latin alphabet until 1910, when the French-controlled government made the Vietnamese-Latin alphabet the only official script, or the writing system of government.

Before Vietnamese used the Latin alphabet, government documents were written using classical Chinese, but everyday Vietnamese was written with a writing system based on Chinese characters, called chữ Nôm.[4] Few people know chữ Nôm today.[4]

Most Chinese speakers who live in Vietnam now use regular Chinese script for calligraphy, but some traditional calligraphy artists can still be found.[4] For example, Hồ Chí Minh City (sometimes still called Sài Gòn) has a district that is famous for its popular Chinatown.

Vietnamese adds new words when they are needed, especially in the professions of engineering, science, and academics. Also there has been an increase in media use. Some social words from the media are now accepted as common.[6]

When Vietnam was controlled by the French, many French loanwords were borrowed into Vietnamese, like cà phê (coffee), bia (beer) and sơ mi (shirt). All these words are still used today. Today, Vietnamese uses many loandwords from English such as tivi (TV), mô tô (motorcycle), and phim (film/movie) because of Internet, social media, and easier travel.[7] Sometimes, the word's spelling would be the same, but it would be said with Vietnamese pronunciation.

Spoken language


The spoken language of Vietnam changes in each province. Even in different cities in the same province, and even different neighborhoods in the same city, Vietnamese dialects can be very different from each other. Usually, the greater the distance between provinces, the stronger the difference. There are many dialects in Vietnamese, including Hanoian, Saigonese, Danang, Hue, and Nghe An. Some dialects are close enough to each other that speakers of said dialects can understand each other without many problems. However, other dialects are so different that even native speakers of Vietnamese have problems understanding, such as the Hue and Nghe An dialects. The national education for all of Vietnam now uses the Hanoian dialect, but each ethnic tribe may still use a different dialect, language, or vocabulary.



There are speaking programs that use Vietnamese. A computer add-on for the Firefox web browser, Vietnamese TTS (Text to Speech), can read text with the 'Vietnamization needs

Audio libraries are available to reproduce Vietnamese. Google translate uses a TTS reader and sound library to read Vietnamese in simple sentences. Portable electronic translators are also very popular. Kim Tu Dien Archived 2012-09-15 at the Wayback Machine makes the most common portable dictionary for the Vietnamese market.

Written language




The Vietnamese alphabet (In Vietnamese: "Chữ Quốc Ngữ", means "The National Scripts").



The combination of two vowels makes a diphthong. The dipthongs used in the Vietnamese language have some rules when used. For example, one rule states that the singular tone for both letters must be placed.



There are more triphthongs in Vietnamese than English, such as 'uye'.

Vietnamese syllables


The syllables refers to the Chinese use of two characters as syllables. Vietnamese also uses one syllable as a word.Like in English, people can say just 'go'. For more emphasis, it could be said twice in Vietnamese. That is common in Asia. n languages. Some Australian Aboriginal languages do the same thing. So, 'go - go' (Vietnamese: đi đi) means "go now" but with emphasis. However, 'go' is also common in Vietnamese.

Many single syllables are used in Vietnamese. They can form sentences without pairing with other syllables as they do in Chinese. Readers (and speakers) still notice that many syllables, in most sentences, are paired.



Vietnamese has borrowed many words many different languages, including Chinese, French, and English. Words like taxi, sushi, selfie, and TV are common words used by most languages.

Until not long ago, the spelling of loanwords is changed so Vietnamese speakers can say it more easily. Most French loanwords have changed their spelling to make it easier for Vietnamese people to say them out loud. For example, the French word café was changed to cà phê, crème was changed to kem, bière was changed to bia. China uses the same idea: Ao-da-li-ya in Pinyin means Australia.

The first rule for vietnamization is that Vietnamese word or syllables are not normally broken by a consonant:[8] (Việt Nam). An example of how to break a foreign word into two syllables is mô tô, one of the words for "motorbike", is a vietnamized version of 'motor' and 'auto' (ô tô). However, the rule has exceptions: lôgic.

When introducing a common foreign word, people vietnamize the word in at least one spoken demonstration for Vietnamese listeners.

  • The rule should explain a problem with the foreign use of the family name Nguyễn. It is not New Yen since y is not a consonant in Vietnamese. The y is pronounced as a vowel as in English many and penny.[source?]

The second (softer) rule for vietnamization is that the sound of each syllable must be made a little closer to Vietnamese sounds. Tone marks for vowel letters are added: lôgic is an alteration of logic and would be need for a few subjects.



Any word can be an exception to vietnamization. Names like Barack Obama or Bill Clinton might be attempted by Vietnamese-speakers. In writing, the foreign names mostly stay together. Names like David are easy for the Vietnamese to say and so have become very popular in writing in English.

Foreign placenames that were once vietnamized have changed back to their non-Vietnamese spelling. For example, Niu Di-len was changed back to New Zealand.

Nowadays, vietnamized spellings of loanwords are becoming less and less common. Many loanwords nowadays are spelled without any changes from their parent languages, especially English loanwords. Words like laptop, game, Facebook are all spelled in Vietnamese the same as they would be in English, but they sound different because of the different pronunciation rules in each language. This is because English has become more common in everyday life in Vietnam. Sometimes, foreign words and names in Vietnamese readings will have vietnamized spellings so Vietnamese learners can say them out loud.





Exclamations are very popular in Vietnamese.[9] People can use exclamations as an introduction to things said. People can also comment with a quick exclamation after they say something. The exclamation may express a feeling or just an expression.



Conjunctions are used in Vietnamese.[10]



Unlike in many languages, Vietnamese uses kinship terms (older brother (anh), younger sibling (em), uncle (chú), grandchild (cháu), etc.) more than pronouns, even if the speaker and listener are not related. For example, if two men who have little difference in how old they are talk to each other, the older man is usually called anh and the younger man is called em. Anh can either be first-person (I/me/my/mine) or second-person (you/your/yours) because both people know who anh is. For example, if the younger man asks the other man "Anh ăn cơm chưa (Have you eaten, yet?)", the older man is the second person, but the older man can answer "Anh mới ăn cơm (I just ate)," which the older man is the first person. Many kinship terms exist in pairs, so speakers who know each other know what to call each other and themselves. For this reason, people who know each other usually do not need to use pronouns. However, some exceptions exist when using kinship terms. [11]

Kinship term pairs

Kinship term #1 Kinship term #1 meaning Kinship term #2 Kinship term #2 meaning Sample sentences
anh 1. older brother: usually used for a man a little older than the other person

2. boyfriend: regardless of whether his girlfriend is older than him or not

em 1. younger sibling: it can be used for men and women

2. girlfriend: even if she is older than her boyfriend

1. Em thích xem phim với anh. (The younger person likes to watch movies with the older man.)

2. Anh yêu em, và em yêu anh. (The boyfriend loves his girlfriend, and she loves him.)

chị 1. older sister: usually used for a man a little older than the other person em 1. younger sibling: it can be used for men and women 1. Chị sắp mua một ly cà phê cho em. (The older woman is about to buy a coffee for the younger person.)
1. aunt: usually an woman old enough to be the other person's aunt, at least older than the other person cháu 1. grandchild, niece, nephew: it can be used for people at least one generation younger 1. Cháu muốn cô làm cá nướng để bữa tối. (The much younger person wants the much older woman to make grilled fish for dinner.)
ông 1. grandfather: usually an man old enough to be the other person's grandfather, several generations older than the other person cháu 1. grandchild, niece, nephew: it can be used for people at least one generation younger 1. Ông nghĩ cháu rất thông minh. (The far older man thinks the far younger person is very smart).

While pronouns do exist, they are mainly saved for formal speech and writing.


Pronoun Meaning
tôi I (formal)
bạn you (formal)
đây this
này this, here
đó that, there
kia that, there
họ they
ta I (informal)
mình I (informal), self-referential pronoun
chúng tôi we (does not include the listerner)
chúng ta we (includes the listener)
các bạn you (formal plural)


  1. Mikael Parkvall, "Världens 100 största språk 2007" (The World's 100 Largest Languages in 2007), in Nationalencyklopedin
  2. Citizens belonging to minorities, which traditionally and on long-term basis live within the territory of the Czech Republic, enjoy the right to use their language in communication with authorities and in front of the courts of law (for the list of recognized minorities see National Minorities Policy of the Government of the Czech Republic, Belorussian and Vietnamese since 4 July 2013, see Česko má nové oficiální národnostní menšiny. Vietnamce a Bělorusy). The article 25 of the Czech Charter of Fundamental Rights and Basic Freedoms ensures right of the national and ethnic minorities for education and communication with authorities in their own language. Act No. 500/2004 Coll. (The Administrative Rule) in its paragraph 16 (4) (Procedural Language) ensures, that a citizen of the Czech Republic, who belongs to a national or an ethnic minority, which traditionally and on long-term basis lives within the territory of the Czech Republic, have right to address an administrative agency and proceed before it in the language of the minority. In the case that the administrative agency doesn't have an employee with knowledge of the language, the agency is bound to obtain a translator at the agency's own expense. According to Act No. 273/2001 (About The Rights of Members of Minorities) paragraph 9 (The right to use language of a national minority in dealing with authorities and in front of the courts of law) the same applies for the members of national minorities also in front of the courts of law.
  3. From Ethnologue (2009, 2013)
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 "Vietnamese Chu Nom script".
  6. "Đưa ngôn ngữ chat vào từ điển tiếng Việt!". Archived from the original on 2016-03-13. Retrieved 2012-09-14.
  7. "English-Borrowed Words in Vietnamese Language". Vietnamese Language Blog - Language and Culture of the Vietnamese-Speaking World. 2021-07-27. Retrieved 2023-01-10.
  8. "Vietnamese Phonology". Archived from the original on 2012-08-08. Retrieved 2012-09-17.
  9. "Chapter 8: Exclamations". Archived from the original on 2012-08-11. Retrieved 2012-09-17.
  10. "Chapter 7: Conjunctions". Archived from the original on 2012-09-03. Retrieved 2012-09-17.
  11. "Vietnamese Pronouns". 123VIETNAMESE. 2014-11-05. Retrieved 2023-12-23.