Can Vietnamese Speak Chinese?

Can Vietnamese Speak Chinese?

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China controlled Vietnam for over 1,000 years. Walking around many parts of Vietnam, particularly in north Vietnam, you can find many Chinese written characters on old buildings.

Chinese and Vietnamese are not the same languages. A Vietnamese person cannot automatically understand Chinese, and a Chinese person can not understand Vietnamese. Even though the languages have some similarities, they are also very different. It is estimated that under 2% of the Vietnamese population can speak fluent Mandarin Chinese.

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Other popular second languages in Vietnam include English and French. English education is now compulsory in the Vietnamese school system; many children learn English.

Chinese And Vietnamese Are Two Different Languages

Chinese and Vietnamese are two completely different languages. I have studied Chinese and Vietnamese and can tell you they have similarities and many differences.

People in Vietnam speak Chinese, not because the languages are similar but usually because they have studied it.

The Vietnamese I have found who can speak Chinese are usually for a few reasons such as:

  • They Studied Chinese – One of the main reasons a person in Vietnam would speak Chinese is because they have purposely studied Chinese. Usually, they will do this as part of their University or college courses. Many people will learn Chinese as they hope to work for a Chinese company.
  • They Grew Up Near The Border – In some border areas of Vietnam, the people there speak Chinese. I have had staff who speak decent Chinese because they grew up near the Chinese-Vietnamese border area.
  • They Work At The Border – Many Vietnamese who work at the border speak Chinese. A thriving border trade is going on between Vietnam and China. Many people who work at the border need to speak Chinese to do their job, including customs officials, truck drivers, freight and shipping companies.
  • Lived In Chinese Speaking Country – Many Vietnamese have lived and worked in a Chinese-speaking country. I have known people who have lived, worked and studied in China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. For many of them to be able to live, work, or look in these countries, they need to show that they can speak Chinese before they can obtain a visa.
  • One Of Their Parents Is Chinese – In some instances, one of their parents speaks Chinese or Chinese, so they speak some Chinese at home. 
  • Grew Up In Cholon (near Saigon) – Cholon is Vietnam’s largest Chinatown, where the people living there usually identify themselves as Chinese-Vietnam. Some people there may speak Mandarin Chinese, but many talks about a dialect of Chinese.

As you can see from this list, the people who can speak Chinese usually had to study it or be raised near the border where they learned both languages or raised in an area of Vietnam that was Chinese speaking as Cholon.

The majority of Vietnamese not speak, read or write Chinese. Even though the languages have some similarities, they are different enough that a Chinese person cannot understand Vietnamese, and a Vietnamese person cannot understand Chinese.

Chinese Is Not The Most Widely Spoken Second Language In Vietnam

Even though Vietnam borders China, not many Vietnamese speak Chinese. Under 2% of the Vietnamese speak Mandarin Chinese.

This is surprising, especially when you realize that China is Vietnam’s largest trading partner; Vietnam borders China. But learning and speaking Chinese is not very popular.

Learning English is now compulsory in Vietnamese schools. Many children grow up in a school system where they learn English from a very young age.

If you go out into the Vietnamese countryside, you will find the students in the villages learning English in the schools; this shows how important English education is now in Vietnam.

Chinese is the 2nd most popular second language in Vietnam. One of the main reasons for this is the influx of Chinese, particularly Chinese factories, moving to Vietnam.

Another popular second language in Vietnam is French. For 100 years, the Vietnamese were under French rule, so many older Vietnamese may have grown up in the French system and schools. Many Vietnamese also go to France to study university-level courses.

Other languages I have heard of people learning are Japanese and German; these seem quite popular second languages.

Vietnamese And Chinese Relationship

Vietnam and China have long had a tense relationship, similar to two relatives who get along but sometimes fight. For 1,000 years, China controlled Vietnam.

But at the same time, China also gave Vietnam a lot of things that are now part of Vietnamese culture. The two countries have long had a trading and diplomatic relationship.

China and Vietnam remain important trading partners, and many Chinese factories have set up a factory in Vietnam. But despite this, the Chinese and Vietnamese have not always had a friendly relationship.

I have seen Vietnamese protests outside the Chinese Embassy in Hanoi and Chinese-owned factories. I have also heard Vietnamese tell me they dislike the Chinese.

But at the same time, there are a lot of similarities between the Chinese and Vietnamese cultures, and I see them more like cousins who seem to complain and dislike each other even though they may not always like each other.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Vietnamese language and where is it spoken?

Vietnamese is the official language of Vietnam. It’s a member of the Austroasiatic language family and is spoken by about 76 million people in Vietnam and by Vietnamese communities worldwide, especially in East and Southeast Asia, North America, Australia, and Western Europe.

Does Vietnamese use a unique writing system?

Vietnamese use the Latin alphabet (chữ Quốc ngữ) with additional diacritics for tones and certain letters. This writing system was developed by Catholic missionaries in the 17th century and later standardized during the French colonial period, replacing the earlier Chinese-influenced writing system (chữ Nôm).

Is Vietnamese a difficult language to learn for English speakers?

Vietnamese can be challenging for English speakers due to its tonal nature, pronunciation differences, and grammar. However, its use of a Latin-based alphabet and lack of verb conjugations or noun gender can make some aspects easier compared to other Asian languages.

What are some basic phrases in Vietnamese that a beginner should know?

Some essential phrases include:

Hello: Xin chào (sin chow)
Thank you: Cảm ơn (gahm uhn)
Yes: Vâng (vuhng) for older people, Dạ (yah) for younger people
No: Không (khom)
Excuse me / Sorry: Xin lỗi (sin loy)

These phrases are a good starting point for anyone beginning to learn Vietnamese.

Can Vietnamese people speak Chinese?

While there is historical influence and shared characters, the majority of Vietnamese people do not speak Chinese fluently. The languages are distinct and require separate learning.

Why are there Chinese characters in Vietnam?

Due to China’s historical control over Vietnam, Chinese characters were once used in Vietnamese writing. However, modern Vietnamese uses the Latin-based script, Quốc Ngữ.

Are Chinese and Vietnamese the same language?

No, Chinese and Vietnamese are distinct languages. They belong to different language families (Sino-Tibetan and Austroasiatic, respectively) and have unique grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation.

Can a Vietnamese person understand spoken Chinese?

Some Vietnamese speakers might understand basic spoken Chinese due to historical and cultural exposure, but full comprehension is limited.

Can a Chinese person understand Vietnamese?

While some Chinese speakers might recognize certain words or phrases due to shared characters, understanding spoken Vietnamese requires dedicated learning.

How similar are Chinese and Vietnamese languages?

While there are some similarities, such as shared vocabulary and historical influence, the languages are fundamentally different in terms of grammar and structure.

What percentage of Vietnamese people can speak fluent Mandarin Chinese?

It is estimated that less than 2% of the Vietnamese population can speak fluent Mandarin Chinese.

Are there any language programs to learn Chinese in Vietnam?

Yes, there are language programs and courses in Vietnam that teach Chinese, but learning it requires deliberate effort and study.

Can learning Chinese help a Vietnamese person understand their history better?

Learning Chinese characters and some historical context can provide insights into Vietnam’s past, but a deeper understanding would require broader historical and cultural studies.

How has the historical relationship between China and Vietnam influenced language?

China’s historical dominance led to the adoption of Chinese characters in Vietnamese writing, but as Vietnam gained independence, it developed its own distinct script and language, incorporating vocabulary from other sources as well.

How Closely Related Are The Thai And Vietnamese Languages?

Soy sauce is not gluten-free, as soy sauce is traditionally made with soybeans and wheat. A Japanese soy sauce called Tamari is gluten-free as the soy sauce uses no wheat in the production process. Many companies are now producing gluten-free certified soy sauce.

By clicking here, you can discover How Closely Related Are The Thai And Vietnamese Languages?

How Similar Are The Chinese And Vietnamese Languages?

Both Vietnamese and Chinese are Asian languages though they come from different language families. Vietnamese and Chinese are both tonal languages and have similar sentence structures. They are monosyllabic languages, meaning that one word has one syllable, and several dialects are spoken.

By clicking here, you can discover How Similar Are The Chinese And Vietnamese Languages?.

What Is The Official Language Of Hong Kong?

The official language of Hong Kong is Chinese and English. The residents of Hong Kong are native Cantonese Chinese speakers, so the official language is Cantonese Chinese. Many in Hong Kong can also speak Mandarin Chinese; many local Hong Kong residents prefer to speak Cantonese Chinese or English.

By clicking here, you can discover What Is The Official Language Of Hong Kong?.

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