Thursday, December 07, 2006

Beach school stresses Vietnamese heritage, values

These people understand how important it is to retain their heritage, but still become Americans. It is possible to do both. DP

By GILLIAN GAYNAIR, The Virginian-Pilot VIRGINIA BEACH - On a dry erase board, Quynh-Uyen Nguyen drew a series of straight and squiggly lines and a dot.

She pointed to the figures and, in Vietnamese, asked a group of 5- to 7-year-olds to repeat after her as she identified them: "Dau sac! Dau huyen! Dau hoi! Dau nga! Dau nang!" Each of the five accent marks alters how words are pronounced and what they mean.

Across the hall, older students read and translated sentences out loud. Around the corner, others practiced vocabulary.

It was a typical Sunday afternoon for nearly 50 children who are learning - reluctantly, at first - their parents' native language and traditions. The two-hour classes take place in rented rooms at Kings Grant Elementary School and are one of the main endeavors of the newly formed Vietnamese Youth of Hampton Roads organization.

The language school, called Lac-Viet, was launched in September out of parents' concern that their children had little knowledge of their roots and couldn't communicate with their grandparents.

Among the estimated 47,800 Asians in Hampton Roads, about 3,600 are Vietnamese. While Lac-Viet is the only one of its kind here, other language schools in the area include those that focus on Greek and Chinese.

"We are the bridge" to help them understand their heritage, said Tri Barsell, a parent and the school's principal. Parents also hope that through the classes, children will gain an appreciation for certain Vietnamese values the adults grew up with, in addition to the American values they've adopted.
Be sure to read the rest of this story! This is only a small part of it.

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