Preserving language for second-generation community

September 28, 2006



12:51 PM CDT on Thursday, September 28, 2006

By Chau Nguyen / 11 News Click to watch video
Southern California’s large Hispanic community is seeing a language shift.

A study finds that the Spanish language is dying out as English becomes the dominant one.

Now, it appears to be happening in Houston, where one immigrant community’s next generation could be losing their language.

At a one deli, Vietnamese food is served and, by in large, ordered in the Vietnamese language.

Young Vietnamese Americans like Le Vu might prefer speaking English, but, “it’s easier to speak to them in Vietnamese that way they don’t get confused if I speak to them in English,” he said.

And it’s a language dilemma that goes beyond this deli.

With the first wave of immigrants being replaced by a second generation comes this question: Are the children of these immigrants losing their language?

You might consider Dr. Rick Ngo in that category.

At work, he rarely speaks Vietnamese.

“I would say 99 percent English,” he said.

And what about at home, with his Vietnamese-American wife?

“We speak English,” Dr. Ngo said.

Now it appears there’s a return to their roots.

Truong Ngon teachers a Vietnamese language class for those of the second generation who were asked for it.

“I prefer myself a one-and-half generation,” student Jack Phan said. “Not really a second generation, but one-and-a-half or 1.8.”

Phan speaks Vietnamese, but articulating it well and reading and writing, he doesn’t.

“I know Vietnamese,” he said. “I don’t know it deeply.”

“And the second generation, they try to consolidate what they achieve,” Ngon said.

Ngon said his classes are getting bigger and bigger as Vietnamese-Americans are seeing the need to bridge their language gap.

“And as an educator I love to teach those who rally really want to learn,” he said.

Dr. Ngo hopes private lessons from Ngon will mean he and his wife will soon speak Vietnamese not to just each other but to their two children

“We don’t want them to forget who they are and where they came from,” he said.

Vietnamese might very well be the only language spoken at the deli, and perhaps some of the younger generation would like to keep it that way.


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