How Closely Related Are The Thai And Vietnamese Languages?

Thai and Vietnamese Language

I have lived and worked in both Vietnam and Thailand, so I am familiar with Vietnamese and Thai languages. Vietnamese and Thai have some similarities and some differences in their spoken languages.

Thai and Vietnamese are both Asian-based languages, but despite being Asian-based, they are from different language family groups. Both Thai and Vietnamese are tonal languages and are analytic languages. Both Thai and Vietnamese have similar-sounding vowels and sounds and similar word order.

Both Thai and Vietnam use specific pronouns to refer to people, and they are both languages heavily influenced by the Chinese language.

Below are some of the similarities between the Thai and Vietnamese languages.

Thai and Vietnamese Are Both Asian Languages

Thai and Vietnamese are both Asian-based languages. Though they are both Asian languages, they come from different Asian language families.

  • Vietnamese – is part of the Austroasiatic language family and under the subgroup of Vietic.
  • Thai – is part of the Kra-Dai language family and in the subgroup Tai.

Both Vietnamese and Thai are Asian languages, but they are from different language families; their language families are not related.

Thai and Vietnamese Are Both Tonal Languages

Both Vietnamese and Thai are tonal languages. To speak any of these languages well, you need to hear the tones.

I know that the tones are the most challenging part of a tonal language. I may think I can hear the tone correctly or think I am saying it correctly, but I am not. 

In all my years living in countries where tonal languages are spoken, I have found that the foreigners who can speak fluently have a clear understanding of the tones and have ears to hear the different tones.

Here are the number of tones for each Thai and Vietnamese:

  • Vietnamese – Vietnamese has six tones and five tones that are marked.
  • Thai – Thai has five tones.

Even though they both have toned, Thai and Vietnamese tones are different.

Thai And Vietnamese Are Analytic Languages

Both Thai and Vietnamese are analytic languages, meaning they will use analytical words to show the connection between words in a sentence. Being an analytic language, the Thai and Vietnamese languages also share this similarity with Chinese, Vietnamese, Khmer English, and Lao.

Thai And Vietnamese Can Have Similar Sounding Vowels And Sounds

One of the primary reasons many non-native speakers may feel that Thai and Vietnamese may be the same language is that they may have similar-sounding vowels and other sounds. When you hear a Vietnamese and a Thai speaker speaking their language, you may feel they are saying the same word or using the exact words.

But even if the words may sound similar in both languages, it does not mean that the languages are close or even the exact sounding words have the same meaning in each language.

Vietnamese And Thai Grammar And Their Word Order

Both Vietnamese and Thai languages have a similar basic word order. Both languages have a very similar grammar structure.

The basic word order for both Vietnamese and Thai languages are:

  • Subject + Verb + Object

This is also a similar and basic word order for Chinese. Sometimes, the word order will change, especially when location, time, or duration are taken into account.

Vietnamese And Thai Use Specific Pronouns

Both Vietnamese and Thai will use specific pronouns when referring to people based upon their age, status, and gender. Understanding these pronouns is essential for speaking in either polite Thai or Vietnamese.

I know as an American, this was first very confusing for me in learning these languages. I wondered why someone needed to call me another pronoun or name or refer to me as an older female. In both Thailand and Vietnam, understanding how to use the pronouns is about politely calling people by their age or status in either the Thai or Vietnamese languages.

The Chinese Language Influenced Both Thai And Vietnamese

China has a lot of influences on languages around the Asia region. For over 1000 years, the Chinese controlled Vietnam, so you can expect China’s influence as seen within the Vietnamese language.

Even though Thailand was never controlled by any foreign power, much less the Chinese, influences can be seen in the Chinese language also in the Thai language. China has had a significant effect on the Asian area through trading, diplomacy, food, and culture.

A Thai person can not understand Chinese, nor can a native Chinese speaker understand Thai. The two languages are entirely different.

The same is between the Vietnamese language and for Thai and Chinese. Even though there can be some similarities, native Chinese or Thai speakers cannot understand Vietnamese unless they have studied Vietnamese.

There are similarities between all the languages; if someone speaks either Thai, Vietnamese or Chinese, they may have a bit of an easier time learning a new language. They will build upon the similarities they have already learned and mastered for the spoken language.

Fro the written language, the Vietnamese language uses the Latin script, and the Thai language uses a script that is often referred to as the Thai alphabet.

So even though the Thai and Vietnamese languages have some similarities, they also have stark differences; they are two very different spoken and written languages.

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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?.

Anita L Hummel

Hi, I live in Hanoi, Vietnam but spend time traveling the region. I love to share with you things I see and learn through my travels.

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How Closely Related Are The Thai And Vietnamese Languages?