Many foreigners have difficulties with Vietnamese name because of its structure. Normally, a Vietnamese name is spoken and written in such order as Surname + Middle Name + First Name, e.g. Nguyen Van Nam, where Nguyen is Surname, Van is Middle Name and Nam is First Name. Sometimes, a middle name does not exist in someone's full name, e.g. Le Dung, where Le is Surname and Dung is First name.
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Psychologically, a name is very important to a Vietnamese as it will stick to him/her in his/her lifetime. A name is used not only to distinguish one person from the others but also to express a desire of his parents, relatives or family. For this reason, linguistic and meaningful aspects are always taken into consideration in the naming process, e.g. parents may choose a name Hung, Dung or Manh etc. to name his son in the expectation of a strong, brave and successful man in the future.
Unlike people from some other countries, the Vietnamese always call someone his or her first name, e.g. if I want ask for someone's help whose name is Nguyen Duc Hung, I will say "Hung, could you help me please!". The Vietnamese rarely call someone his or her surname but sometimes call his or her full name.
The most popular surname used in Viet Nam is Nguyen. According to a statistic conducted in 2005, Nguyen accounts for nearly 38%, Tran accounts for nearly 11% and Le accounts for 9.5% of our population. Other popular surnames include: Pham 7.1%, Hoang/Huynh 5.1%, Phan 4.5%, Vu/Vo 3.9%, Dang 2.1%, Bui 2%, Do 1.4%, Ho 1.3%, Ngo 1.3%, Duong 1% and Ly 0.5%.
The most popular middle names used in Viet Nam is "Van" for male and "Thi" for female which are always between Surname and First Name. If you see a name of someone in a list who you have never met before, you may know the sex of this person by the middle name. Nowadays parents tend to use other middle names or longer ones (for example Le Hoang Minh Thao, where Le is Surname, Hoang Minh is Middle Name and Thao is First Name) when naming their children as they want names of their children to be more strange and unique.
First name is always at the end of a full name and given in consideration of geographical locations, sex, family, society, parents' desire etc. Traditionally, it is not allowable for someone to be named after his or her parents and older people who are relation to him or her. This tradition may derive from our feudal society and remains unchanged in many parts of Viet Nam.
According to a recent statistic, young parents pay more attention to names of their children than previous generations. They believe that proper names may bring their children good luck or help them avoid bad things in an ever-changing society. The belief has created more jobs for some fortune-tellers who can tell you about your future fate based on your name.