Language Autobiography


Language can give so many first impressions of a person. If a person speaks broken English, you automatically assume they don’t know much. If a person speaks with accents, you assume that they are not from the area. The tone of their language and how they use also affects the assumptions people put on the way you speak your language. The way I see it from my family experiences, “broken English” is basically a “simple” version of English.

            The way I showed my language in descriptive scenes was a large part of my autobiography. The dialogue really gave the reader what happened in the moment. The dialogue shows the embarrassment that happens when broken English is spoken in public. I really had a hard time figuring out what the broken English in my family meant, but as I started writing out my scenes I figured out that broken English is a simpler version. Overall, I learned that the broken English used in my family is basically a “simple” version of Standard English that your family and you use to understand each other.


Cái nay lam sao?” How do you work this? My cousin said in Vietnamese.
“You turn on the...” As I said those words, I remembered that my cousin couldn’t understand or speak English. I tried to think of Vietnamese words that will translate from what I wanted to say in English.
“You mo cai len” I said nervously.

My cousin’s confused facial expression made me give up on trying to speak Vietnamese to him. I decided to show him through my actions. I took the remote and showed him where the power button was. I took his hand and pushed his finger down on the power button. The TV turned on, and then he realize how my TV and remote works. Vietnamese was my first language, and I would use it talking to my parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. After he left my house, I realized that my Vietnamese is not as good as it used to be.

I noticed that you start losing your language overtime, because you use it less and less everyday. Overtime I knew that speaking Vietnamese was going to be horrible, because of everyday English use. It’s like an exchange student from Puerto Rico coming to America. The student has no choice but to speak English in school. Once I went to school, that’s when my family started to use English to help me in school. My dad started speaking English regularly to me in the house, so everyday I speak less and less Vietnamese. I grew up with Vietnamese and English. Vietnamese was my main language, but as I was exposed to English. I started losing my Vietnamese tongue.

There are many versions of one language. Everyone grows up learning what language they speak by the peers around them. People get used to speaking their family’s native tongue, but when they are in public, the tone of the language, choice, and pronunciation of the words are different. People would speak the way their language is used in their home, but in public they speak Standard English.

Translating was very difficult for me when I was younger, and it still is. I’m not very good at speaking Vietnamese. Whenever you speak Vietnamese or any other language besides English, some letters are pronounced in a different way. For example, in English the letter “a” is pronounced “aye or ah”. In Vietnamese “a” is pronounced “ow”. Whenever I speak Vietnamese, I pronounce the words like they are in English, some of my family can understand, while others have no clue what I am saying. I was always better at understanding Vietnamese than speaking it. My grandpa would always ask how am I doing whenever I go to his house. I would always try to say “I’m good” in Vietnamese. My grandpa would say back to me “No understand”.

My family speaks a lot of broken English, therefore I grew up speaking broken English to my family. I get frustrated whenever my family can’t get their point across speaking broken English. I get annoyed when people ignore and act like they know what my family is saying. They just say “Okay” and nod their heads, but I can tell from their confused expressions that they have no idea what my family is saying. In my mind, I feel that people are judging my family, because they can’t speak proper English. It doesn’t mean that my family is ignorant; they just can’t find the right words to express their thoughts. The embarrassment is not really a big issue for me, but I feel sympathy towards my family. I feel the need to step in and say what my family can’t say.

On my way home from school, my dad decided to get some fast food for me. He stopped by McDonalds, and we both went in to see what they had on the menu. “Hello, what can I get you?” asked the cashier.

“Can I have numba won laaarge, with Coke?” my dad said.
“Can I get number two medium, with Coke?” I said.
“Okay, here’s your receipt. Your order will be with you in a sec.”
As we got our order, my dad wanted some barbeque sauce. He went back to the cashier and asked her for some sauce. “Can I have baabeque saut?”
“Excuse me?” The cashier looked at my dad like he was crazy.
“Can I have baabeque saut?”
“He said he wanted some barbecue sauce” I said strongly and annoyed.
“Dad, come on. Let’s go.”
“Okay Kenny. Why you rush?”

I felt embarrassed for my dad. The look that strangers give my dad because of the way he speaks makes me angry. I became frustrated at my dad, but I hid the frustration. I feel this way, because I don’t want anyone thinking my dad is stupid. People are always making assumptions about how bad people are speaking their second language. I know my dad speaks in broken English, and he tries his best to pronounce the words right. When he speaks in the public and can’t get his point across, I get frustrated and annoyed. I get embarrassed about the way he talks English to strangers. I try not to show him that I’m annoyed, because he can’t help but to talk broken English. At home it doesn’t really matter how my dad speaks because I don’t pay any attention at how he speaks. I understand his broken English, but others do not.

“The English I spoke with my mother, which for a lack of a better term might be described as “simple”; the English she used with me, which for a lack of a better term might be described as “broken”. - Amy Tan

The way I use English to speak with my dad could be called “simple”. To me, I realized it’s more of a “short-cut” than “simple”. I would shorten the usage words in my sentences. The English my dad uses to speak with me is “broken”. My dad asks me “I go to store. What you want from store?” Instead of saying “Can you go to the store and buy me milk?” I would just say, “Buy milk from store”. The English I use to speak with my dad could really be called “simple”, because it’s not how I talk in public. It’s just how I talk in my family, so that they can understand me.