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The Foreign Language

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The Foreign Language

"Be An sua soan song chua? Sap che gio hoc roi!"

"Yes mommy," I would answer in a grumpy tone.

This was the usual question my mother would ask me every afternoon of my childhood summer days. My mother would ask me if I was ready for school and my usual reply would always be the same. I was forced to attend Vietnamese school during summers and the thought of it use to be dreadful.

My mother is a very petite lady with a splash of tan skin, which is quite odd for being Oriental. She has almond eyes that are a tad bit small with an oval face to accompany her constant smiles. My mother is a very intelligent woman. She came from a country that speaks no English and eventually assimilated into the American culture. In time, my mother learned the American language and still manages to keep the Vietnamese traditions within our home.

As I recall my first day of summer school, I vividly remember how nervous I felt. As I walk to the school, which was about five minutes away, I had this butterfly feeling. I walked as slowly as I can, treasuring each steps. The closer I got to the school the butterfly feelings seem to grow out of control. The heat from the sun hitting my back did not seem to help. I finally arrived at the stairs of the school. Of course, I am late. As I slowly walked down the hallway, I could hear all this chattering against a deep strong voice that belongs to a man. I'm assuming it was the teacher. As I entered the classroom all the chattering seems to stop for a long two minutes. Then all heads and eyes were pointing in my direction. I felt a slight sting of uneasiness and felt blood rising to my cheeks. I took a seat and somehow all the attention towards me dwindled and the students resume their chattering position as the teacher quiet them down. As I sat there getting accustom to this atmosphere, I realize that everything from the faces to the noises were foreign to me. It was my first time sitting in a classroom setting that consists of all Vietnamese students strictly speaking a different language from English. I spent five consecutive summers at this school. It somehow dawn on me that every summer I would have to use my new tongue and assimilate into this new society.

The Vietnamese language uses alphabets similar to English. Therefore I picked up the reading faster than understanding the whole language. One major difference was Vietnamese contains accent mark. For example, bong and bong. The first bong means flower while the other means shiny. If these two words were put together, the whole translation would represent a balloon. There are also different rules and exceptions. I had to memorize when to use the letter x or s because they sound alike. When I do come across words that begin with these letters, I would pull out my



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