What writing system(s) does this language use?


Vietnamese uses the Latin alphabet (the alphabet used in English), but without the letters J, W, and Z. Several letters have forms of the letter that are made with diacritics. Including these special letters, there are 29 letters in all. Vietnamese also uses 10 digraphs and one trigraph. Here are all the letters, digraphs, and trigraphs:

A, Ă, Â, B, C, D, Đ, E, Ê, G, H, I, K, L, M, N, O, Ô, Ơ, P, Q, R, S, T, U, Ư, V, X, Y


Vietnamese also uses five marks to show the tone of a word. These marks always come above a letter, except for one. Even when the letter already has a diacritic, the tone mark normally goes above that diacritic!

In this table, the letters A and Ă are used to show where each tone mark goes, even when there's already a diacritic.

Name of the Mark The Mark by Itself The Mark on the Letter A The Mark on the Letter Ă
No Mark A Ă
Grave ` À
Acute ´ Á
Hook A Small Question Mark with No Dot
Tilde ~ Ã
Dot .

diacritic — a mark above, below, or around a letter that changes how it's said. It sometimes even makes a new letter.


digraph — when two letters are used to show one sound.


trigraph — when three letters are used to show one sound.

How many people speak this language?


Vietnamese is spoken by about 86 million people, making it the 15th most common language.

Where is this language spoken?


Vietnamese is an official language in Vietnam, but is also spoken by immigrants in the United States, Cambodia, France, the Czech Republic, Australia, and Canada.

What is the history of this language?


Actually, the language that people use today is quite different from what they used to use before the French ruled Vietnam for 100 years. Before that, people used to speak two types of common dialects: Han Viet and Chu Nom.

Han Viet was the more formal language that was first borrowed, then changed, from the Chinese language. China had ruled Vietnam for 1000 years before the French came, so their influence was much stronger.

Chu Nom was the more informal, popular version of Han Viet that everyone could speak and understand. Lots of people thought that it wasn't a pretty language and shouldn't be used for literature. A poet named Nguyen Du wrote his most famous work, called The Tale of Kieu, in Chu Nom to prove that it could be used for books and poems. Today, the Tale of Kieu is the most well-known poem in Vietnam.

"Vietnamese", as we know it today, comes from a French missionary who thought that Han Viet and Chu Nom were just too hard for people to use. He took the language, gave it a Roman alphabet (a,b,c.. instead of Chinese characters) and made a few other changes as well. The new script, which was called Quoc Ngu, was taught to the Vietnamese people in schools run by the French. After a few generations, many people could no longer read or write the old style of characters, and so many translations were made into the new alphabet. This writing system is still used today in Vietnam.

Who are some famous authors or poets in this language?

  • Hàn Mặc Tử
  • Nguyễn Du
  • Hồ Xuân Hương
  • Tú Xương
  • Xuân Diệu
  • Bà Huyện Thanh Quan

What are some basic words in this language that I can learn?



  • chào: hello/good-bye
  • tôi/mình: I
  • anh: I/you/he/older brother
  • chị: I/you/she/older sister
  • em: I/you/he/she/younger sibling
  • mẹ/má: mother
  • ba/bố/cha: father
  • Bạn có khỏe không?: How are you? (addressed to a friend)

What is a simple song/poem/story that I can learn in this language?

Tiến Quân Ca (the Vietnamese national anthem)
Tiếng Việt English
Đoàn quân Việt Nam đi

Chung lòng cứu quốc

Bước chân dồn vang trên đường gập ghềnh xa

Cờ in máu chiến thắng mang hồn nước,

Súng ngoài xa chen khúc quân hành ca.

Đường vinh quang xây xác quân thù,

Thắng gian lao cùng nhau lập chiến khu.

Vì nhân dân chiến đấu không ngừng,

Tiến mau ra sa trường,

Tiến lên, cùng tiến lên.

Nước non Việt Nam ta vững bền.

Armies of Vietnam, forward!

With the single determination to save the Fatherland,

Our hurried steps resound on the long and arduous road.

Our flag, red with the blood of victory, bears the spirit of the country.

The distant rumbling of the guns mingles with our marching song.

The path to glory is built by the bodies of our foes.

Overcoming all hardships, together we build our resistance bases.

Ceaselessly for the People's cause let us struggle,

Let us hasten to the battlefield!

Forward! All together advancing!

Our Vietnam is strong, eternal.