Chinese vs. Vietnamese: What are the differences?

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Difference between Chinese and Vietnamese

Although both China and Vietnam are located in South East Asia, they both have their own separate culture and language. Both countries are highly populated and their inhabitants are considered Asian, but their nationalities and customs are nothing alike. Both of their languages are complicated and involve not only letters and numbers but also a number of characters. Although throughout the formation of Vietnam, they used written classical Chinese, Vietnamese did not become the official language of Vietnam until the 20th century. The Chinese language remains vast and somewhat complicated with a variety of differing written forms that persist until today.


Chinese Makes Greek Look Easy

Linguist view Chinese as a language family instead of an entirety of language as much of the rest of the world speaks. Not having its origin in the Romance languages, as most of the other languages spoken around the world, it is a language that is highly unique to its political and cultural situation. Although throughout different regions there are different spoken dialects, there is only one written system that binds the different regions together. With the vast number of dialects contained within the Chinese language, it is easy to see why regional conflicts and political self-identity are so ingrained in the Chinese culture.

When Chinese and Vietnamese Separated

Vietnamese language was formed long before its inception into Vietnam’s formal language. For most of Vietnam’s history, Chinese was the accepted spoken language. Classical Chinese was the agreed upon written language up until the 13th century when Chu-nom was invented and then was used between the 17th and the 18th century for the expression of poetry and literature. Chinese persisted to be the national language during the proceeding Ho and Tay Son Dynasties, until during the period of French colonialism when the French suspended the use of administrative Chinese as the official language. Vietnam did not have an official language of their own until they gained independence from France.

Vietnam still takes from classical Chinese, much of their characters, their history and their roots are firmly grounded in the Chinese language. With the occupation of the French during the French colonialism, however, the introduction of French was naturally included into their regional language. Therefore, Vietnamese is really a language that has adapted from other languages. French a Romance language, stable both written and spoken and traditional Chinese which involves many different regional dialects and written characters are the formation of modern day Vietnamese. Chinese has remained the same since its origin, straying only in dialect but the core remains the same.

Vietnamese Language

China was the originator of South East Asia, so it would make sense that most of the languages in the regions surrounding it would have languages that stem from their ancient classical Chinese language. Vietnam is derived from Chinese, but is a language all onto itself. Although there are commonalities, the Vietnam language has its own region dialect and because of the French occupation during colonialism, it also has the influence of the French language. Chinese has remained the same throughout its origins, only changing slightly from one region to another while Vietnamese has taken on a life of its own.

Similarities and Differences

  • Chinese was the first language spoken
  • Vietnamese has its origins in written Classical Chinese
  • Vietnamese has linguistic contribution from the French language
  • Vietnam did not have their own language until French colonialism was dissolved


comments 7 Comments

  • Steven . 3+ yrs. ago

This article is factually incorrect and lacks evidence proving the author's conclusions. The Vietnamese people had their own spoken language in Southeast Asia long before the Chinese invaded and dominated the people. The Chinese written language was used as an administrative means to write all necessary documents, which is comparable to Latin being the written medium for Europe. Chu Nom, the Vietnamese devised script in the 13th century was used to record the Vietnamese language, but it was not officially recognized until the Ho and Tay Son Dynasties. The Vietnamese spoken language is itself a separate entity from the Chinese dialects or spoken languages. The only similarities that exist would be the Sino-Vietnamese words, or Vietnamese words of Ancient/Classical Chinese origin, which were imported during the Chinese domination era. Otherwise, the Vietnamese people, culture, language, etc. are completely different from China's. The Chinese and the French only exhibited minor influences on Vietnamese culture and language.

  • Son Nguyen . 3+ yrs. ago

I agree. Entire Asia of thousand year ago is not chinese and China as now. No one know for sure which people(Chinese, Japanese, Korian, Monglian, Taipetian....) own the languge first in the past. They fight for their own lands in Asia for thousand years. In china, there were at least six or more countries and at least 10 or more dialogs of chinese. Whoever got tire of fighting in main land. They went a way wether North, South, East and West.

  • Green Max . 3+ yrs. ago

I want to know where the name of Vietnam came from? When will vietnamese people eventually speak and write in a from of language which is created by vietnamese and reflect their true identity.

  • My Ho . 3+ yrs. ago

This article include too many incorrect statements, as well as spelling and grammer errors. There are no evidences showing that Vietnamese originated from chinese. Many modern historians claim that,in fact, Chinese originated from Vietnamese. The map of human migration paths showed that our ancestors migrate from Africa to north, passing Vietnam first and then China

  • lunitheturk . 3+ yrs. ago

you are obviously a Vietnamese to make such an ethnocentric statement. DNA tests show that Chinese are more closely related to Tibetans and Mongolians than with any other. Moreover, Vietnamese are South East Asians, a group consisting of people from Thailand, Cambodia, Philippines and Malaysia etc. Chinese are EAST ASIANS, saying Chinese originated from Vietnamese is like saying the English and French originating from TURKEY. And IQ tests show that the Chinese have identical IQ levels with the Japanese, Mongolians and Koreans, who are all EAST ASIANS, whereas Vietnamese is far below that rank.

  • alex . 3+ yrs. ago

dnt even have to explain nope son

  • Aron . 3+ yrs. ago

Vietnamese were in jungle and undeveloped land my grandfather went there and developed.99% of Vietnamese have Chinese blood although they don't admit.

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