Here’s a new podcast that opens a window into Hmong culture in America. Hmonglish is hosted by Yia Vang — a James Beard-nominated chef — and Gia Vang, a former anchor at KARE-11.
Interviewed recently by MPR Morning Edition host Cathy Wurzer, the podcasters describe some of the tribulations of being school kids, interpreters and cultural navigators while coming up in Minnesota.
Here’s Yia Vang on searching for the Hmonglish word in English that doesn’t exist in Hmong: “The word “Hmonglish” is this idea that as Hmong kids growing up, we had to speak Hmong to our parents but then there were words and concepts that we just didn’t understand. So for example, how do you say computer in Hmong, there’s no word for computer, or if there is, it’s a long phrase, or even like the word Netflix. There’s no way of explaining what Netflix is like, Netflix is actually just part of the Hmong language. Now, YouTube is part of the Hmong language.
“We jokingly just call that ‘Oh, that’s Hmonglish.’ It’s also the way that this third culture works. You have the Hmong culture and then you have the western culture. And then, people like me and Gia, we kind of fall in that middle where we straddle both cultures.”