I have the cutest hairdresser. He's Vietnamese, has a thick accent and a loud high pitched voice, and is always at the ready to great customers with a sing-song "Can I help you?". He's awesome.

During my last haircut he gave me an eight-minute version of Vietnamese history, and focused mainly on the written language. I never really realized that the official Vietnamese language is written with the roman alphabet.

Or, as my hairdresser would have it, "it's written a, b, c."

Basically, there were three manifestations of the written Vietnamese language throughout time. In ancient history, the Chinese ruled Vietnam which (among other things) greatly impacted the development of the language and Classical Chinese was the written language for many centuries. The 1600s brought French missionaries to the area, and they kind of rewrote the language using roman letters for their ease, but it was never standardized or used much outside of the missions. When the French colonial government came, they mandated the use of and standardized the final manifestation of the written language -- quoc ngu. (Actually, the French preferred the French language, but recognized the quoc ngu as the offical language in the early 1900s...). When Vietnam won independence from France in 1945, the provisional government declared quoc ngu to be the official language of The Republic of Vietnam.

Or, as my hairdresser would have it, "the French came in, made up the lanugage. Then they got tired and left."

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