Vietnamese (tiếng việt / 㗂越) is spoken by approximately 90 million of speakers in Vietnam, and abroad by about 3 million of Vietnamese expatriates, being the 16th largest language in the world. Although it is mainly spoken in Vietnam, due to immigration and cultural influence, it is officially recognized as a minority language in the Czech Republic and it´s also spoken in Guangxi province in southern China, in addition to other areas in Europe, North America, Australia, Japan, and Thailand, among others.

Despite the fact that Vietnamese written system was once dominated by Chinese characters, after the 13th century, adapted from them, evolved into its own format, known as Chữ-nôm (喃). But it was during the 17th century, when Roman Catholic missionaries, influenced by Portuguese, French, Italian and Spanish, introduced the Latin alphabet, resulting during the 20th Century in the current and official written system: chữ Quốc ngữ.

Regarding pronunciation, like Chinese, Vietnamese is a tonal language, which has six tones. It also counts with a large number of vowels (11), resulting in a wide range of different pronunciations when these ones are connected (diphthongs when they are 2 and triphthongs when the connected vowels are 3).

As a foreign language, the teaching of Vietnamese is gradually increasing outside the country, mainly because of two reasons:

  • To serve as a link between descendants of Vietnamese migrants and their ancestors, in countries such as Australia, Canada, France and the United States, where the number of Vietnamese language schools have increased in the recent years.
  • The influence of Vietnamese economy, especially in those countries nearby Vietnam, like China, South Korea, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia.

In Hong Kong, depending on the students´ background, the reasons for learning Vietnamese can be either of the both aforementioned. Our city counts with a relatively large number of Vietnamese migrants, who entered as refugees due to the war and its consequences, since the mid-70´s; however, it was not until the 2000´s when HK government announced a scheme to fully allow integration in the city for Vietnamese immigrants.

Besides the traditional popularity of Vietnamese cuisine in the city, Hong Kong residents have commonly traveled to Vietnam for leisure due to its proximity. However, in the recent years, the increase of foreign investment in Vietnam is gradually making the country also attractive for professional reasons. In this light, Vietnamese as a foreign language is becoming more demanded among professionals from diverse fields.

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