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Learn to Speak Your Language

Updated: May 28, 2023

Learn to speak your language.

My grandmother has visions of Vietnam,

Of calm mountains,

And explosive bombs.

She has stories of birth and health,

Of sickness and death.

She knows names

Of family members

I consider unknown,

Peeking out from torn photos.

Because I don’t understand her,

And she me.

Learn to speak your language.

My father has good humour.

He laughs often,

But at something I say,


He’s a jack of all trades,

But I won’t be.

I can see it,

But to perceive it is a different story.

Because I don’t understand him,

And he me.

Learn to speak your language.

My mother is uneducated.

She makes comments

With no concept.

I try to teach

But I speak

About another world.

She forgets what I tell her

Right away

Like champagne in a system.

Because I don’t understand her,

And she me.

Learn to speak your language.

My grandfather has traces of cancer,

Of growing lumps and bumps

Without an answer.

He has one year,

They say,

But I can’t say anything. Not to him, anyway.

He knew histories

Forever unbeknownst to me.

Because I didn’t understand him,

And he me.

How many more don'ts will turn into didn'ts

Before I learn?


I wrote 'Learn to Speak your Language' (a poem) after having some conversations with my dad. Losing your language is something a lot of Asian American youth go through. I cannot read or write Vietnamese, despite it being my first language. When I speak it, at least 30% of it unconsciously becomes English. My dad and I are very similar people, but we have a lot of trouble communicating with one another and being close seeing as my Vietnamese vocabulary is not nearly as developed as his and his English vocabulary is not nearly as developed as mine. The piece is about my regrets about not studying Vietnamese harder when I was younger—when it was easier to pick up on.

Biography: Hello! My name is Linda Duong and I'm a high school senior from Ottawa, Ontario (Canada). I love STEAM, but more specifically, the 'S' and the 'A'! I'm passionate about the study of human biology and chemistry (although physics is starting to grow on me) and music performance/analysis. In the future, I hope to combine both medicine and business in a way that benefits disadvantaged youth. In my spare time, you can catch me running my non-profit ( or some of my clubs, watching kpop comeback stages (oops), reading and writing, or snacking on something crunchy:)

Instagram: @__lindaduong


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