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I always spoke English with my parents and I never had any sense that my communication with them was in any way inhibited. There was no pressure to learn German or Czech. If anything, my parents wanted me to learn French, which we studied at school without any great success.
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When I was a kid, I wasn't up on a Saturday morning watching cartoons while eating fruit loops. Instead, like many Tamil children, I was usually half asleep trying to learn the language that I first learned to speak. I didn't hate going to Tamil school because I missed out on cartoons. I think I hated going because it was a hard language to learn.
A couple of insignificant words shouldn't matter much, but to me, it meant a lot. Forgetting a few words meant having awkward, half-formed conversations with my parents. It meant feeling alienated from an ethnic community that was strongly bound by a common language. Most importantly, it meant losing an inherent part of my Vietnamese identity. Each time I forgot another word, it was like I was a little less Vietnamese.
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"You don't say this white show and this white show..."
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Two Filipino-Canadians open up about a packing tradition that connects them to home.
My Canadian-born son isn't proficient in Tamil. I have not been successful in teaching him. I feel that my ineffectiveness comes off as un-Tamil to some. We're used to the idea of the cultural mosaic and pride in our heritage by proudly declaring that our kids are proud Tamils.