Blog Post 9: Saddling Wild Tongues

Born as the first child of Vietnamese immigrants, I began to speak in Vietnamese before I could in English, with “Cá”, meaning fish, being my first word. When I was of age to go to school, I remember taking a readiness test to see if I needed to attend preschool, and the fact that I primarily spoke Vietnamese instead of English placed me into the program. I was then taught to identify colors and shapes in English when I knew them in another language. After attending school where English was only spoken, I found myself forgetting my native language. My “wild tongue” was tamed by my surroundings which normalized one language over any other language, primarily in youth when the brain is developing. I asked my parents if they believed that they were forced to learn English and use it in America. In response, they saw it as a way to be accepted by coworkers, friends, and strangers and not be looked down upon for speaking Vietnamese: they viewed English as a sophisticated language and Vietnamese as its inferior counterpart. With this viewpoint, non-English languages in the United States can be suppressed as immigrants yearn for the feeling of belonging and acceptance. When early schooling pushes for language development in one primary language and American society makes it difficult for immigrants to embrace their native tongue, the “wild tongue” can be tamed.

-Vivian Nguyen


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6 Responses to Blog Post 9: Saddling Wild Tongues

  1. Isha

    Wow, this is such a great story! I love how personalized it is and your story. As a daughter of immigrants too, I can relate.

  2. ack2234

    Very interesting story! This reminds me of how my sister’s first words were in Telugu and she faced some difficulty in daycare as she would try to talk to the other kids in Telugu.

  3. aew2976

    I loved that you told your personal experience with feeling “tamed” from your natural, first language. I think you bring up a great point regarding non-English languages in the United States. Great post!

  4. kcl928

    I love how you drew on your own personal anecdotes to elaborate more on the topic. I feel especially connected as my parents also wanted me to learn English before Vietnamese to avoid any scrutiny when I was young.

  5. njp768

    It was very interesting how you shared your personal experience to relate to the topic. My parents were immigrants too so I completely understand your story!

  6. sdw2623

    I like how you used your personal story. I know many people that lost communication with their family members because Spanish was not allowed to be spoken back in the day and so parents did not teach their kids it.
    -Stephanie Wilhite

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