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Vietnamese Names

Thảo Võ, writing for Salon:

The Vietnamese language is written with marks — diacritics — that represent different tones. To me, the diacritics represent childhood. They represent confusion. They represent something I cannot reach. It’s a change in the pitch of my voice that I have not perfected. It’s my entire family history. And so the saying of my name and the writing of it becomes complicated. I’m not here to teach my colleagues Vietnamese. I can’t. I can barely pronounce the language correctly myself. It’s a gift to be given or earned. My heart warms when I hear Vietnamese spoken with a southern accent. It’s something for me to work toward.

It’s a beautiful personal essay that reassures me that it’s OK to give my kids Vietnamese names. Xuân and Vương are difficult for Americans to pronounce, but I love to see them try.

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