Number of speakers worldwide: 80 million
(70-73 million native speakers)
Vietnamese is spoken in Vietnam, as well as in Cambodia, France and the United States.
Vietnamese is the official language of Vietnam, where it is the mother tongue of 84% of the population. The country’s demographics testify to its great linguistic diversity. The flat regions are essentially the exclusive domain of the Kinh population, the ethnic majority in Vietnam, while the central plateaus and northern mountains are home to approximately 53 ethnic minorities that represent 15% of the population of Vietnam, i.e. about 10 million people. All in all, this means a variety of language families are present in Vietnam:
*Austro-Asiatic family: Khmer, Muong and Vietnamese are spoken in Vietnam
*Kradai family: the Tai languages—14 of them are spoken in Vietnam
*Hmong-Mien family: Hmong is spoken in Vietnam
*Austronesian family: Cham and Jarai are spoken in Vietnam
*Sino-Tibetan family: Chinese is spoken in Vietnam
Vietnamese belongs to the Mon-Khmer branch of the Austro-Asiatic language family.
The Vietnamese Nôm Preservation Society, a non-profit organisation supporting the preservation of the historic Nôm script, at http://www.nomfoundation.org/index.php.
Due to nearly a millennium of Chinese occupation of what is now Vietnam, many Vietnamese words are in fact adaptations from Chinese and the first orthographic system for Vietnamese was based on Chinese characters. Modern Vietnamese script is called quốc ngữ. In this script based on the Latin alphabet, words are made up of a succession of monosyllables. This writing system stemmed from the desire of sixteenth century Catholic missionaries to transcribe a language that only used Chinese characters into a phonetic system. The French Jesuit missionary Alexandre de Rhodes finished the work of former Portuguese missionaries, completing the first dictionary in what became the base of Vietnamese orthography. Later colonisation resulted in French-Vietnamese transcription. For example:
cà phê - café
xi nê – cinéma
sô cô la - chocolat
bia – bière