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The Vietnamese language was heavily influenced by those cultures that took control of their country throughout history. Both Chinese and French were at some point part of the Vietnamese language. However, the Vietnamese people overcame their rulers and today are proud of their own true Vietnamese language which is spoken by over 77 million people inside and outside of Vietnam.


Verbal Communication

Vietnamese is the official language of Vietnam and has 6 different tones with each symbol.  The different tones are very important because each tone changes the definition.  This is one of the reasons it is hard for foreigners to learn the language.  Other languages spoken in Vietnam include Chinese, Khmer, which is Cambodia’s official language, and Cham, along with many other languages and variations.  Vietnamese is a member of the Austro-Asiatic language family but is usually thought to be a separate language group (Source 27) .

Vietnamese people are very good at story telling and tend to talk about their friends and family for entertainment.  Harmony is important to the Vietnamese so, during communication, Vietnamese people usually won’t say no.  Instead of saying “no” when asked to come to a party, they will say yes and then not show up.  Face is important to Vietnamese so they are usually very indirect with what they have to say and usually avoid stating their opinion in case they are wrong.  It is considered polite if women speak softly when they talk.  If they talk with a high volume in their speech, it is considered to be negative.  Stability in social relations is valued by the Vietnamese, bringing them to be very intimate.  They are intimate with their partners and their extended family.  The intimacy acts as a support system for all modes of communication (Source 12).


Proverbs reflect a nation’s culture and heritage, as well as their values and beliefs. All of the proverbs below reflect in some way a value that Vietnamese hold.

Value of Nonverbal Communication :
Vietnamese strongly believe that it is important that when one speaks they must think about what they say first. Vietnamese rely heavily on nonverbal cues. Whatever they say must be important and be rational.

" Fold your tongue seven times before you speak"

"To eat one must chew to speak one must think."

Value of Reputation:
Bringing pride to ones community and family is very important. One should never have negative face. The negative face could mean not being very direct, or never shaming yourself or others.

"Better to die than to live on with a bad reputation."

"Better die in honor than live in disgrace."

Others before Self:
As a collectivist culture, the Vietnamese always put others before themselves, they value the happiness and success of their community rather than their individual success. They are a kind and giving culture that always cares about others.

"When eating a fruit, think of the person who planted the tree."

"If one receives a plumb, one must return a peach."

*For additional Vietnamese Proverbs one can go to the following links:
Vietnamese Proverbs
Vietnamese Proverb Quotes


Contents from the page can be found in the Bibliography

Cultural Portfolio Fall Semester 2007. See Cultural Portfolio Homepage here