(GKH) in Orange County: Cultural Transmission through Vietnamese

Giải Khuyến Học (GKH) in Orange County: Cultural Transmission through Vietnamese Language
Pauline P. Dong
Mentor: Dorothy Fujita-Rony
Heritage language is defined as a language that is normally not taught in mainstream schools, but has certain
historical or personal connection to individuals. Rather than focusing on the effects that heritage language
education has on learners, this project seeks to understand how first generation, Vietnamese Americans’ sense
of culture and identity is transferred through Vietnamese language education in Orange County, California. In
this study, I examine the Vietnamese Americans’ assimilation and acculturation struggles following the
Vietnam War, and how the formation of Little Saigon also correlates with the solidification of the firstgeneration’s exilic community identity. With the development of community-run, Vietnamese language
programs across the county, it is clear that Vietnamese language plays a critical role in sustaining community
culture and identity. In the case of many minority communities in the United States, knowledge and fluency
of the heritage language disintegrates with each generation due to the necessary acculturation into a an
English-dominant society. The emergence of Vietnamese language programs throughout the years signifies a
movement to maintain the heritage language, and how the first generation of Vietnamese Americans has built
a foundation for this continued growth. I argue that the Vietnamese language functions as a tool for firstgeneration Vietnamese Americans to transmit their culture, memory, and identity to the younger generations.
Since this is a two-year project, I will interview organizers of Giải Khuyến Học, a Vietnamese language
program that launched in 1984, to further highlight the importance of language and cultural transmission in
the community.