The Vietnamese language is important not just as the national language of the world’s 15th most populous country (about 100 million people), but also as the language of millions of people in the diaspora—including a significant community in North Carolina. With the economy of Vietnam growing more than 6% annually since 2014 and with over 20,000 speakers in our state, there are plenty of reasons to study this language.
Vietnamese is a tonal language, written today with a Romanized alphabet (i.e., the same alphabet used for English or Latin) called Quốc Ngữ (which means “national language”), where diacritics indicate both tone and vowel sounds. Words in Vietnamese are usually short, and unlike English, Spanish, or French, word spellings never change based on topic, audience, or the time when something happened (future, past, etc.). The language is a member of the Austroasiatic language family, and as such it has many similarities to other mainland Southeast Asian languages. Its vocabulary has been heavily influenced by Chinese, and to a lesser extent by French and English as well. With a documented history of over a millennium, modern-day Vietnamese has several different, distinct dialects; the northern dialect, spoken in Vietnam’s capital Hanoi, and the southern dialect, spoken in Ho Chi Minh City, are the best known.
Studying Vietnamese language also provides a window into the history, culture, and society of Vietnam. Our language courses are designed to promote not just students’ ability to communicate but also their intercultural competency and cultural understanding.