Vietnamese is a monosyllabic, tonal language belonging to the Austro-Asiatic language family. Vietnamese, which likely originated in the Red River valley, has existed as a spoken language for more than a millenium. Vietnam’s literary tradition, however, is much younger, dating from about the tenth century, when the Vietnamese adopted a demotic script known as Chữ-nôm using Chinese characters. In the late 16th century, French Jesuits introduced a new system of writing, Quốc Ngữ, based on the Latin alphabet. This system, which employs diacritics to convey tonal variations, is still in use today. Vietnamese, the official language of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, is the native language for nearly 90% of the nation’s population (approximately 85 million), and perhaps as many as three million overseas Vietnamese, who fled the country in the 1960s and 1970s in the face of war and revolution. Vietnam is also home to many ethnic minorities, most of whom speak Vietnamese as a second language.