Teng Chue Yang is a 63 year old Hmong American man who has been attending English class at Hmong American Partnership since 2005, when he first arrived from Wat Tham Krabok, Thailand. Mr. Yang became a soldier for CIA in Laos at the age of thirteen; he is a survivor of the Secret War in Laos and a respected member of his clan and community.
When he first registered for English class, he had no faith in his ability to learn English. He felt that at his age, learning a new language was a lost cause. When asked what his personal education goals are, Mr. Yang had a very difficult time coming up with any. He simply felt it would be a miracle if he ever learned enough English to express himself at all; thus, he chose “improve English skills” as the only goal.
It has been three years since he first started English. Despite his initial hopelessness, Mr. Yang diligently walks to and from English class and does not miss class unless he has to (which is rare). Today, Mr. Yang speaks English very well, enough so that he inspired his daughter to also attend English class at HAP. These days, when his teacher calls him at home, he can have conversations with her in which he explains why he missed a day of class and when his teacher can expect him to come to class. When he is in class, this man who is a very proud and aloof man is energetic, hilarious, outspoken, and intent on demonstrating the growth he’s experienced in three years as an English learner at Hmong American Partnership.
“We are in America now. We must learn to speak English. Personally, I feel that even if I am not ever going to be fluent in English, I will at least speak enough English to help myself. This is a show of self-respect and respect for this country.”