Vietnamese is the official language of Vietnam. It is spoken by approximately 90 million people in Vietnam and approximately four million Vietnamese people living in other countries around the world, with the majority residing in the United States, Cambodia, France, Taiwan and Australia.
The modern standard version of Vietnamese is Tiếng Việt. Vietnamese is a tonal language written in the Roman alphabet with additional diacritics for tones. The tone system is a distinctive characteristic of Vietnamese phonology; for example, a word may be repeated with any one of six tones to indicate six different meanings (ma (ghost), má (mother), mà (but/that), mã (horse), mả (grave) and mạ (rice seedling)). Consequently, pronunciation and intonation play a key role in the learning of Vietnamese, with a clear correlation between sound and writing systems.
The importance of intercultural awareness in language learning is illustrated by distinctive features of Vietnamese such as the complex system of personal pronouns, which is vital to building and defining relationships, with use of the personal pronouns em, anh, chị, cô, ông, bà, con and cháu contingent on the relationships between speakers in contexts of communication. The frequent use of idioms, proverbs, similes and metaphors in both daily interactions and literature is another key feature of Vietnamese language use.
The range of learners within the Vietnamese background language learner pathway is diverse, defined for the most part by different waves of migration. Students include first, second or third-generation Australians, and their use of Vietnamese may extend beyond the home to involvement in community organisations and events and to everyday interactions with Vietnamese friends. Other learners may have been born in Vietnam, where they may have completed some education.
In the Languages curriculum area the focus is on both language and culture, as students learn to communicate meaningfully across linguistic and cultural systems, and different contexts. This process involves reflection and analysis, as students move between Vietnamese and their own existing language(s). It is a reciprocal and dynamic process which develops language use and intercultural awareness and understanding.
Vietnamese involves understanding the interrelationship between language and culture. The curriculum is designed with an intercultural language-learning orientation to enable students to participate meaningfully in language and cultural experiences, to develop new ways of seeing and being in the world from a bilingual perspective, and to understand more about themselves in the process.
Students use a wide range of texts designed for language learning, such as textbooks, teacher-generated materials and online resources. Their learning is enriched by exposure to a range of authentic Vietnamese texts, such as websites, films, stories, songs, television programs, advertisements and magazines. The texts and resources will become increasingly sophisticated and varied as students progress through their schooling.
Students are encouraged to use Vietnamese as much as possible for classroom routines, social interactions, structured learning tasks, and language experimentation and practice.
Students will have opportunities to engage with members of the community who speak Vietnamese, which in some cases will be facilitated via digital technologies.
English is used for discussion, explanation and reflection, enabling students to develop a language for sharing ideas about language and culture.