Vietnamese has been strongly influenced by its neighbor, China. A local form of Literary Chinese was the language of learning in Vietnam for a long time, while the general form of Chinese characters was adapted to transcribe native Vietnamese words.
Vietnamese later abandoned both and adopted a Romanized system originally developed by the French. This makes Vietnamese one of the few Asian languages whose present orthography is based on the Latin alphabet. Even though Chinese characters are no longer central to the language, Chinese words still make up as much as 60% of Vietnamese vocabulary, many of them having entered the language very early.
Vietnamese is the official language of Vietnam, where most of the almost 70 million speakers of the language live. There are substantial Vietnamese speaking populations in the neighboring countries of Cambodia, Thailand, and Laos. Because of the Vietnam War, many Vietnamese now live in the U.S.