Firstly, that Khmer was terrible but nice try (I kid).
I feel that this video relates with all or many second generation persons. My emotions threw me all over the place, and all I could really think about was my grandmother. Her dementia/Alzheimer’s gets worse daily and the English language was one of the first to leave. Even as I was growing up, she only spoke enough to make light (like, diet-coke-zero light) conversation with neighbors/passerbys. Anyway, Khmer was my first language and I used to communicate well with her. But when she moved to help my aunt’s family, I pretty much lost all fluency. My parents tried to avoid speaking their native tongue around us because they were afraid us kids struggle getting a job (communication barrier) in the future as they did when they immigrated. We were spoken to and responded with solely English. I suppose they’ve succeeded, and I am thankful. But I wish I could speak more Khmer in order to engage in conversations with my elders.

My grandmother is eighty-something now and unwell. It pains me not being able to tell her how far I’ve made it. How much my sister and I have grown, how much influence she had on our upbringing, and how much we are thankful. I am limited to facial expressions, nods, and simple phrases.

My message to all of you who are unable to speak their parent’s native language(s): don’t want until it’s too late. I’ve given myself more exposure while in college, but still speak in phrases. I hope one day I will become sufficient enough to be able to teach/expose my future children the language of our ancestors.

EDIT: Guys. Please listen to this podcast. It’s not the entire hour. Start at 40:50. You will not regret it. I literally cried. It’s about a man who was never able to speak to his father, living in the same household. Mom taught him English only. And….just listen.


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