MALCOLM W. BROWNE:
Saigon AP Bureau Handbook
English has become vital to coverage of news in Viet Nam -- even for reporters of the local press.
But French is also a must when dealing with most members of the government, many embassies and many Vietnamese military officers. French is still the nation's second language, despite the gains made by English.
Vietnamese is a very difficult language for Westerners, related fairly closely to Chinese (although it is written in Roman letters using special accent marks to indicate the tones.) Don't expect to learn the language unless you're prepared to spend several years at it. But learning a few Vietnamese words and phrases is useful -- particularly those needed in directing taxis.
Many Vietnamese speak Cantonese.
Courtesy Malcolm W. Browne.