Languages of Vietnam

The people of Vietnam speak Vietnamese as a native language. In its early history, Vietnamese writing used Chinese characters. In the 13th century, the Vietnamese developed their own set of characters called Chu nom. The celebrated epic Ðo?n truong tan thanh (Truyen Kieu or The Tale of Kieu) by Nguyen Du was written in Chu nom. During the French colonial period, Quoc ngu, the romanized Vietnamese alphabet used for spoken Vietnamese, which was developed in 17th century by Jesuit Alexandre De Rhodes and several other Catholic missionaries, became popular and brought literacy to the masses.
Various other languages are spoken by several minority groups in Vietnam. The most common of these are Tay, Muong, Khmer, Chinese, Nung, and H’Mong. The French language, a legacy of colonial rule, is still spoken by some older Vietnamese as a second language, but is losing its popularity. Vietnam is also a full member of the Francophonie. Russian – and to a much lesser extent German, Czech, or Polish – is sometimes known among those whose families had ties with the Soviet bloc. In recent years, English is becoming more popular as a second language. English study is obligatory in most schools. Chinese and Japanese have also become more popular.

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