Today’s distinct Vietnamese language reflects its mixed racial and cultural history, and is mostly a fusion of Mon Khmer (monotonic), Tai (tonality and grammar) and Chinese (literary and technical vocabulary). The ‘Chunbom’ writing system using modified Chinese characters was developed in the 8th century. Around 1650, a French missionary transcribed it into the Roman alphabet adding signs and accent marks to indicate tones. The French officialised this new written language in 1910. Ethnic minorities retain their native languages, and many foreign languages are spoken, with Chinese, Russian, French and English among the most popular.