Vietnamese is spoken
in both North and South Vietnam by about 65 million people. Its
linguistic affiliation is uncertain, and though it is sometimes
thought to be distantly related to Chinese, this remains to be
proven. Like Chinese, Vietnamese is a tonal language and it has
borrowed nearly half of its vocabulary from the Chinese.
alphabet was devised in the 17th century by Catholic missionaries.
It contains a complex system of diacritical marks, some
distinguishing certain vowel sounds, others indicating tone. As
can be seen in the few lines below, a letter may often contain two
Kim- Van-Kieu is
the Vietnamese national poem. Written by Nguyen Du (1765-1820), it
contains a total of 3,254 lines, of which only eight are cited