The French ruled Vietnam (plus Laos and Cambodia) for over 60 years, from 1887 to 1954. They introduced bread, coffee, Catholicism and many other things that are now ingrained in Vietnamese culture. One of the most notable things is the language. First of all, the Romanized script – until the early 20th century the Vietnamese used classical Chinese characters and the chữ nôm script.

But the French also left some words behind, although you wouldn’t always directly recognize them in modern Vietnamese:

This one’s easy – Garage (often Ga Ra Ge) and Auto > Ô tô.

Bière > Bia

Fromage > Pho Mai


Apart from a few old people here and there, no one really speaks French anymore. Almost all kids and students are learning English and many of them dream of living in the States. Let’s say, the times they are a-changing.