Previously known under the French colonization as Annamese, Vietnamese is the national and official language of Vietnam. It is the mother tongue of 86% of the country’s population and of nearly 3 million Vietnamese abroad; it also spoken as a secondary language by several ethnic minorities of Vietnam. It was only in the 20th century when Vietnamese became the official executive language. For a long period of time Vietnam used written traditional Chinese for governing purposes and written Vietnamese was mainly used for literature and poetry. A large extent of Vietnamese vocabulary has been adopted from Chinese particularly words that signify abstract ideas. The current Vietnamese writing system is a borrowed version of the Latin alphabet with extra diacritics for specific letters and tones.
There are 4 commonly understandable regional dialects of the Vietnamese language. It includes the Northern Vietnamese (spoken in Hanoi, Haiphong), North-central Vietnamese (Nghệ An, Thanh Hoá, Ha Tinh, Quang Bình), Central Vietnamese (Huê, Quang Nam), and Southern Vietnamese (Saigon, Mekong). These dialects generally differ in sound systems, vocabulary (basic and non-basic), and grammar. Other common languages spoken by minority groups in Vietnam include Murong, Chinese, Tay, Nung and Hmông. French is still spoken by a number of older Vietnamese as second language. English is gaining popularity and is a mandatory subject in most schools. Chinese and Japanese have also become popular among Vietnamese.