#179 | lan01 – About the Vietnamese

Hi guys,

I was curious the other day about my mother tongue language and I was looking for some information about how it was constructed. I’ve never thought about the correct rules, grammatical sentences or vocabulary since I always speak Vietnamese. I also speak and learn French at school but Vietnamese was for me a more convenient medium of communication with my family. When I was looking for some books in my attic laboratory/room, I fell into some old book of poetry which my old uncle gave me when I was young, but even if I could read it, poetry is far more complex than casual talks and writings. There are actually a lot of meanings into one word and the logic of the Vietnamese language is really different from Germanic and Latin languages since the language is based on a logic of registry based on the signified concept of the word rather than the signifier. Also, the Vietnamese language has changed a lot over past colonizations by China and France, and the language is clearly affected by those periods. So, even if the grammar in Vietnamese is quite easier to understand than French and English, the real deal is about the meaning of all the words put together and the verbal tone of how you will pronounce the words.
Oh, by the way, it will be a new category “language” since we will probably learn new languages that will help in our travels.


The Vietnamese language is quite interesting for a lot of reasons. Like every country in the world, Vietnam is a country which has a rich history behind the language formation. I won’t talk about it in this category, but it is important to know that Vietnam was been colonized in one thousand years by China and later by France. These events have profoundly marked the culture of the country and also the writing system.
The language was once written in the same system as the Ancient Chinese and that’s why the cultural logic of the language is quite the same as the Chinese (even if the political logic is clearly different). These old writings are called: “Chữ nho” that mean “Erudite writings“.

Later, Vietnam wanted to distinguish from the colonizers and since the Vietnamese verbal language was clearly different from the Chinese language, the country has changed the writings to the “Chữ nôm” that mean “Demotic writings”. This language is really difficult to read by now because only the “elite” could learn it and know how to understand it. Plus, with the definite change of writing system brought by Alexandre de Rhodes into an alphabetic system of writings, the Demotic writings tend to be forgotten. Actually, in the entire country, only a few hundred experts could translate it. That’s why Vietnam wanted to promote the teaching of this old system to be able to translate the oldest archeologic documentation of the country.

During the French colonization, the Vietnamese language was forced to change into what is actually known as “quốc ngữ” or “National writings“. It was brought by Alexandre de Rhodes at the period of the colonization, an alphabetic version of the Demotic writings which is still used today after the independence of Vietnam . The country takes this new system to be able to entirely differentiate from China.


So that’s all for today. It was a bit short but it was quite fun to write this post.
Sorry again if my engrish is quite messy and thanks for the reading!
See you later 🙂

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