Vietnamese languageVietnamese is the official language of Vietnam, and it is spoken throughout the country. Dialectical differences are marked between the north, central and southern regions. There are also dozens of different languages spoken by the various ethnic minorities, particularly in the Central Highlands-and the far north of the country. Khmer, the Cambodian language, is spoken in parts of the Mekong Delta, and in addition Laotian and various Chinese dialects can be heard in spots along their respective borders.
The Vietnamese people's knowledge of foreign languages reflects their country's relationship with foreign powers - cordial or otherwise - in recent history. Much of Vietnam's elder generation still speak French, while many middle-aged Vietnamese speak Russian and other Eastern European languages - many of these people spent time in countries like Russia, Bulgaria and the former East Germany during the Cold War (at least until it thawed in the late 1980s). Today, however, Vietnam's youth has fully embraced the English language. A fair number of young people also study Japanese, French and other Western European languages.
For a good start on basic vocabulary and picking up some conversational Vietnamese, see the Language chapter in the back of this book.