Peter Nguyen is currently a senior majoring in Geology and Environmental Studies. As a Vietnamese American, he learned both Vietnamese and English as he grew up. From personal experience, he tells us that language is central to understand the culture.
When asked what my first language that I learned was, I could never respond immediately with an answer. I grew up learning both English and Vietnamese at the same time, so I didn’t know what to say. I have always been inclined to say Vietnamese was my first language because that was the only language my parents taught and spoke to me while growing up. While attending public school starting at the age of 5, my parents also put me in summer classes to learn Vietnamese at the local Vietnamese Association of Illinois. Learning how to write paragraphs, act out skits, and sing along to a few famous songs made me feel like I was fluent. However, after taking those summer classes for 5 years I did not engage in reading and writing as much and only spoke Vietnamese at home. Looking back on that, I want to relearn the reading and writing aspects as well as improve my speech fluency. I think that relearning my parent language will enable me to reconnect with my roots at a deeper level. Language is a gateway to learning about culture and I hope to travel to Vietnam soon and use my Vietnamese to experience the culture extensively.