Why is French Not Spoken Much in Vietnam Today?
French was historically spoken in Vietnam due to the country’s colonization by France. Vietnam was part of French Indochina from the late 19th century until the mid-20th century. During this period, the French established control over Vietnam and introduced their language, culture, and administration.
French became the official language of the colonial government, and it was widely used in education, administration, and business. However, its usage was limited primarily to the urban elite and the educated class, while the majority of the population spoke Vietnamese.
After years of French colonial rule, the desire for independence grew stronger in Vietnam, leading to the First Indochina War and eventually the Vietnam War. After gaining independence in 1954, the use of French started to decline gradually in Vietnam.
Following the 1954 division of Vietnam into North and South, the southern part of the country experienced a significant American influence due to the presence of US military forces during the Vietnam War. As a result, the English language gained popularity in South Vietnam, particularly among those who had contact with American soldiers or were involved in business and trade activities with the United States.
After the fall of Saigon in 1975 and the reunification of Vietnam, the government initially promoted the use of Russian as a foreign language, given Vietnam’s close ties with the Soviet Union. At the same time, there was a resurgence of French in schools and universities, as the government sought to rebuild relationships with French-speaking nations and revive ties with France.
However, the economic reforms initiated in 1986, known as Đổi Mới, aimed to open Vietnam’s economy to the world and attract foreign investment. This policy shift led to a significant focus on English language education and the adoption of English as the primary foreign language taught in schools.
Over time, as Vietnam integrated into the global economy and embraced globalization, English gained prominence as the language of business, technology, tourism, and international communication. French, on the other hand, became limited to specific fields such as diplomatic relations, academia, and certain professional domains.
Today, English is widely taught and spoken in Vietnam, particularly among the younger generation. It has become the language of choice for international communication, education, and career opportunities, while Vietnamese remains the official language and the most widely spoken language in the country.