Vietnamese is part of the Austro-Asiatic family of languages and did not officially become a recognized language until the twentieth century. The Austro-Asiatic languages are nearly three thousand years old, which makes this time span even more impressive. These languages are found mostly throughout Asia and India, and along with Khmer, Vietnamese is one of the largest and most popular.
Chinese was the first and largest influence on the Vietnamese language, as it politically dominated the area as far back as two BCE. Even today, the Vietnamese language borrows many variations of words from Chinese, and their original alphabet was a modified version of the Chinese alphabet. It wasn’t until the seventeenth century when the Vietnamese orthography using the Latin alphabet still in use today was introduced.
There are three separate dialects of Vietnamese: North, Central and South. Most Vietnamese speakers are able to understand the other dialects. This is likely due to mass migrations that occurred in waves throughout the history of Vietnam, at one point moving from North to the South, and another moving from the South to the North.
Today the Vietnamese language is spoken by more than seventy million people worldwide, and remains a popular language among Vietnamese immigrants in the United States. Furthermore, English continues to influence the Vietnamese language as the Vietnamese adopt terminology from North American culture, due to media influence.
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