The sacrifice

Leaving everything behind. Or just simply put them off.

Most of my friends in America are older than me at least 1 or 2 years, not including those who are even 10 years or more older. And so for a really long time I always think that my words are not worth being listened to. For a long time I think that I have to learn from others, I have to be teachable, and I have to express in a more neutral way — not showing my stance or my perspectives — because I’m childish. Because I know nothing.

But now I guess that is not true anymore. I might be younger than many people, but that doesn’t make me in a lower position, considering my experience and my capability to learn.

The other day, I was talking to my boss about how to help people be more interested in learning and writing just like I am, especially when language is a huge barrier. I said in order to be better at English, I try to think and do many other things in English. I would talk to myself, would pray, or would dream in English. Most of my activities are not in my mother tongue, so sometimes it is really exhausting. Anyway, I was talking to my boss about that, and she said she would not agree with me, because she thought thinking in a different language from my mother tongue would limit my ideas, and that I set a boundary for myself even before I start brainstorming a paper. Yes I definitely agreed with her at that moment because she is my boss and because I am younger and inexperienced. But now that I think deeper about it, I would say in that conversation I was the only person that use and is fluent in more than one language. I was the only person that knows what it felt like to live in a country where if you don’t know the language they use, you’re screwed.

I was experienced.

Oh yeah that’s not my topic today. I would write about maturity later in my life. Not now.

It’s more about sacrificing.

How much I have sacrificed? I don’t know. A lot. Maybe. Too much. Maybe. So much that my mind and heart keep expanding their limitation for me to be able to sacrifice more. Many nights I feel scared because it becomes harder for me to speak Vietnamese in full sentences. It’s harder to find the exact words that can fully describe my thoughts. It’s harder to not repeat one words too many times just because I am stuck searching for vocabulary. I don’t like that, so I write more to keep my Vietnamese flow. My expectation for my own Vietnamese skill is just too high that these little things bother me so much. Days after days I think of how to make my brain functions well in both languages, and I get jealous because yes I would never be that good in both.

I would always have to sacrifice one to be better at the other.

Languages represents cultures.

I think my boss misunderstood about languages. She thought language ability doesn’t matter. Only the original thoughts in your native language matter. That’s a good way to phrase it, but it isn’t enough. We international students are asked to do just so much more than that…

It is just not about ideas or language skill. It is about cultures. What we think are moral in our society are reflected in our language. And because they are so different from each other, it is about how we can blend them. And being able to blend thoughts and express them well on papers require a bit sacrifice.

I say it is okay to sometimes simplify my ideas to simple words that I know in English instead of translating everything word for word. I say it is okay to sometimes have weeks of speaking a foreign language nonstop. I think it is okay to sometimes forget that I have this flow of words in Vietnamese that I cannot fully express in English.

I can never express it in English. Because the words themselves carry the cultures, and cultures are so rich that it is impossible to translate.

I have left many things behind me. I have left those days of reading continuously in Vietnamese, of keeping learning and using new vocabulary and having conversations that are more than just cursing words. (That’s one part that I am proud of myself — more than just cursing and trending words) I have even left my old personality behind, left that person who just likes being at home and surrounded by her books.

I sacrifice a part of my culture, which I think is really important and is what made me who I am. I put me out of the box because I am no longer trapped by a language. I sacrifice in order to take in something bigger — seeing a bigger world that is more than just an “American dream”. I have in me knowledge of an international person. I sacrifice my-writing-and-reading-in-Vietnamese hours, only to think more deeply about how I can write in a way that is more relatable to people from all nations.

I don’t know about you. I don’t know about my boss. I don’t care if everyone is older than me. This is what I know: that just because I am young does not mean I am inexperienced, and that language is more than just black and white — more than just you think in this one language and that is it. It is a story of adopting a whole new culture in you. It is a story of “yes, I apologize for not being that same person following the same norms anymore.”




It’s me. Again. I haven’t been able to wrap my thoughts around words lately because I just have so many of it. But today I decided to process them a bit.

The idea of languages carrying cultures, I would tell you more about em some time. I promise.

Published by Thi Le


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