FUSD students learn about Hmong and Khmer language and culture in Summer Academy class

Jessica Harrington Image
Saturday, June 29, 2024
FUSD students learn about Hmong and Khmer language and culture in Summer Academy class
Fresno Unified students are leaning into learning more about the Hmong and Khmer cultures and languages.

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Students are leaning into learning more about the Hmong and Khmer cultures and languages.

The pages of books are coming to life in Padao Thoa's class this summer.

Students are learning more about the Hmong language and culture through Fresno Unified's Heritage Language Programs.

"I want these kids to understand that hey, you guys, you need to preserve it," Thao said.

Thao teaches the students between TK and second grade to read and write in Hmong through reading and discussing traditional stories, like one about a little boy learning to make rice porridge.

"We watched videos, we read, we wrote about it and then I made porridge from home. I brought it here, and then I let everyone take a stir," Thao said.

She says her goal is to preserve the Hmong culture with the younger generation.

"I just want to make sure some of these kids, I can spark the interest so that they'll keep coming back," Thao said.

Across campus, 4th through 8th grade students are learning about Khmer, the native language and culture of Cambodia.

Teacher Setha Nhim is teaching students basic conversation skills so they can better communicate with their parents and grandparents.

"'Oh, I hurt my arm. I hurt my eye. I have a stomach ache.' At least some of that stuff," Nhim said.

Soon-to-be eighth-grade student Lizzie Prop returned to the class after taking it last summer.

"I want to learn more about the Khmer heritage, and I'm also Khmer myself," Prop said.

She says she hopes to learn the Khmer language to better communicate with her grandparents and extended family in Cambodia.

"They're really fluent and sometimes, they don't understand most English," Prop said.

Nhim says that along with the language, students also learn about traditional food and music and some of the history.

"Hopefully, they can identify themselves of who -- where they come from and their traditions and their culture," Nhim said.

Both teachers say they hope these students leave the summer academy with a deeper understanding and respect for their heritage.

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