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Crosscurrents

Losing your language in prison

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MICHAEL LORUSSO
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Flikr / Creative Commons
San Quentin State Prison sign

Imagine if you forgot how to speak the language you learned as a child — a language that gave you an identity, a language that says, "Hey you belong here, you're one of us." How will your sense of self be impacted?

"I try to converse with them in Vietnamese but I find it very difficult. I can't find the words to express myself, but I can do it in English, and so I kind of question myself: Why is it so difficult for me to speak in Vietnamese when I speak it at home?"

Anouthinh was incarcerated at the age of 15, and after spending more than two decades behind bars, he was paroled earlier this year. This story was honored with others from San Quentin Radio by the Society of Professional Journalists of Northern California this month, and Anouthinh was able to accept the award in person. He got a standing ovation—you can watch the video here.

Our radio training program at San Quentin State Prison is supported by the California Arts Council, with funding from the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. All content is approved by an information officer.

Click the audio player above to listen to the full story.