Vietnam or Viet Nam or Việt Nam or ???

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2010/06/04 07:01 -04:00, original URI:

Software developer and self-described semi-regular reader Rick asked:

We are looking into entering Southeast Asia with some of our utilities, and people are asking me whether the country name is Vietnam or Viet Nam. I have no idea but you probably do. Which is correct?

It is funny how much you can see both spellings around, isn't it?

The Internet makes this both easier and harder; easier because you can find so much information, and harder because of the conflicts and the difficulty in finding the right answer!

Now Wikipedia happens to have it right in this case, and gives some info here and here that can help elucidate things a bit:

Việt Nam was adopted as the official name of the country by Emperor Gia Long in 1804. It is a variation of "Nam Việt" (南越, Southern Việt), a name used in ancient times. In 1839, Emperor Minh Mạng renamed the country Đại Nam ("Great South"). In 1945, the nation's official name was changed back to "Vietnam". The name is also sometimes rendered as "Viet Nam" in English.


In English, the two syllables are usually combined into one word, "Vietnam." However, "Viet Nam" was once common usage and is still used by the United Nations.


And yes it is true that not only the United Nations but also some international standards like ISO 3166 use Viet Nam.

But the government in country has communicated a clear preference for the one-word Vietnam, which is a convention that many companies like Microsoft endeavor to follow.

Now if someone was doing it the other way, the problem may not be the kind of international insult that will make people incredibly unhappy or anything like that, but it does make sense to go along with what people in the country would prefer.

It just seems more polite, you know? :-)

Now this preference is for the name when spelled in English; in Vietnam, one would usually call the country Việt Nam and the language name Tiếng Việt (and now you may be able to make smart guesses on the meaning of both Nam and Tiếng, as a bonus!).

I myself only have a few contacts in Vietnam but all of them have said that if the translation quality is high they like localized product, but if it's not then they'd rather have English. This is a sentiment that many people speaking different languages share around the world.

In particular they mean good rendering support of he text, with appropriate diacritics and tone marks. They didn't find full collation support (across all Unicode normalization forms) to be as important though they were amused at some of my previous coverage in blogs like On my "Vietnamese Plus" and "pseudo-Form V" constructs (they also filled me in on the Microsoft/VNI issues!)....

Mihai on 4 Jun 2010 1:41 PM:

And, of course, anything is better than "Vi?t Nam" and "Ti?ng Vi?t" :-)

TrucBui on 4 Jun 2010 7:01 PM:

i always use "Việt Nam" when i write something in Vietnamese and "VietNam" when in English.

Ray on 13 Aug 2010 5:21 AM:

"But the government in country has communicated a clear preference " - would you please cite a reference for this?  Thank  you!

Michael S. Kaplan on 13 Aug 2010 12:17 PM:

Reference for a lack of something? :-)

Andrew on 14 Mar 2012 1:11 AM:

The Vietnamese Embassy uses Viet Nam most of the time and Vietnam sometimes, so it would seem both are correct.

Black Rose on 26 Mar 2012 3:34 AM:

If you are a foreign language is to use the Latin alphabet, the correct spelling would be Vietnam, for example: Vietnam Airlines, Vietnam Visa, Vietnam Railways.

Bobui on 31 Jul 2012 9:39 AM:

Con can viet ve viet bac.

jesus2099 on 16 May 2013 2:30 AM:

The language name *tiếng Việt* doesn’t require uppercase it’s a common word (language).

Funny that you used U+0301 COMBINING ACUTE ACCENT for *tiếng* but you avoided combining for *Việt* (U+1EC7), the latter is really the preferred way to go, IMO. ;)

I don’t like VietNam, I prefer using Việt Nam (even better VIỆT NAM ;)) or… Vietnam if people are english yes.

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2010/06/07 Malay or Malaysian?

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