You know that face that someone gives you when you've just said something that makes no sense at all, or if you just spoke too fast while they were day dreaming and then they finally come to? Or the best is when you are eating out with someone and they find a hair in their dish - you know that face? Yeah, well that's the face most people give me when I give them my blog address. I'm assuming it's because xanghe is not a word you encounter everyday (get this, as I typed it just now, my auto spell check underlined it in red, as if it's not a word or something.) The only other time I've seen this word is in phou xanghe, a tiny conservation forest of cypress trees in southern Laos. So what is this word, and why do I insist on using it as my online alias despite "the face?" Well, I'll tell you... it all started when I was trying to learn Vietnamese... (flashback sound effect...)

It must have been my first summer in California, and I must have been driving by this time instead of biking. I was at a friend's house practicing Vietnamese before our appointment. I believe it was Cindy and Vân we were talking to. Cindy asked me several questions - all of which I answered in glorious infant Vietnamese, I'm sure - about how my day was going. Then she got to the kicker: "Em đến đây bằng gì?" It's a simple question, really, something like "How did you get here?" I had been on bike before that so my initial reaction was to blurt out: "Em đi bằng xe đạp!" and feel proud of myself, even though my answering verb was off. I caught myself just in time to construct a variation of the same sentence ("Em đi bằng xe hơi.") , but also just in time to throw my tongue for a spin so that the words that came out were definitely not Vietnamese (apparently they were Laotian). "Em đi xăng he." Usually, I'll transpose the first letters of two words and realize the slip almost as the words cross my lips, so I correct it naturally as if I meant to do it. This time it was like I got hit by a train mid-sentence and all the first letters of the last words bumped up to the middle words and the very last word got swept away with the caboose. There was a silence, during which I picked up my tongue from off the floor, then a burst of giggles (Cindy and Vân were master gigglers), followed by an immediate christening: "Xanghe."

Any practical usage of the name died off pretty quickly (probably because of the face others made when we said it), except when Cindy wanted to tease me. But it stuck in my head as a reminder of how slippery language is, that there are unique letters and sounds and tones laws and rules and conventions for each language, but when it all boils down it's just a way to communicate. I've used the name as a title for my blog because even when I don't write about language, I still think about it. When I don't know what to think or feel, I just talk. And what language do I speak? Whatever comes out. That's what xanghe means to me now: it's just talkin' my thoughts out.


Triet said...

Ah the memories of teaching English in Vietnam ... I feel like I just watched my life on Youtube except there was no audience clapping or cheesy subtitles to tell me what they were actually saying.

It is funny to see what people come up with sometimes, and you and I definitely had our share of moments like the girl in the video (still do?), but ultimately, I loved being an English teacher (in California and Vietnam) because you get to see that spark (or "shock"? j/k) in their eyes when they actually get what you've been trying to teach them.

It's like a door to a new world opened right before their eyes.

Of course, when we taught about other stuff that spark was even more rewarding, but less people learned that ...

Susan said...

THank you for visiting my blog.
In fact, when i came across your name ( Xanghe) at Spencer's blog, i didn't know what your name means.Now, after reading your blog, i can understand.
I think it's very great because your name has a story.Don't fell ashamed , the more experience you have, the better you will be at Vietnamese .( Thuc ra thi Susan la mot nguoi Viet nhung doi khi Susan con noi nhung tu rat nguoc khien nhieu nguoi phai cuoi, nhung nhu vay doi khi cung rat vui) Let's prastise Vietnamese that you can use Vietnamese as well as Spencer ( thay ay rat gioi tieng Viet nhung dung cam thay tu ti nha tai thay co vo la nguoi VIet thoi, ngay nao practise cung duoc ^_^)
P/s : you have a sense of humor, i think so.

Triet said...

I didn't pay Susan to say those things!

LOL, and I'm actually red in the face. I've never been told I speak better Viet than the almighty Xanghe...but that's the gift of going to Vietnam by myself! Once she meets you, she'll relegate me to my proper place as #2. But until then...haha!

(and thanks Susan ... look at her English! I'm the proud teacher!)

(I wish I could take all the credit, but I just had really smart students to make up for my numerous shortcomings.)

xanghe said...

This is the first time I've commented on my own blog, but I guess it's accepted as commonplace in the blogosphere, instead of i-dont-have-any-friends-so-i-

So you guys all make me laugh. I'm very impressed with Susan's English, but I'm also very impressed with her Vietnamese. Very articulate for 15. At that age I was still playing with my legos.

VietPundit said...

First of all, I'd like to say thanks to Triet and Phuong for your involvement in the Vietnamese community.

I'm very impressed with Susan. Triet, yes, you should be proud of Susan's English; but more importantly, may I say that you should be even more proud of her independent thinking, something that (I guess) you played a part in helping to develop. As they say in VN, "10 nam trong cay, 100 nam trong nguoi"; I hope you helped "trong" many fine young people in VN.

Susan, Phuong also has a Vietnamese wife like Triet, so that's no excuse for his Vietnamese to be worse than Triet's :-D

Triet said "Once she meets you, she'll relegate me to my proper place as #2." Well, once she's met me, she'll make me the new #1 and make you guys #10, not just in Vietnamese, but in everything else too! (except for modesty) :-D

Susan said...

I'm actually red in the face. I'm not as good as you think.
Ben, i'm so sorry that i said TRiet is better than you because when I read your blog, I didn't know you had a Vietnamese wife and.....Sorry.
Vietpundit, maybe I won't relerate Triet as #2 ( boi Triet la thay cua Susan , ma moi nguoi khen Susan gioi thi han nhien la thay Triet phai gioi chu, it ra la doi voi Susan ^_^) In fact, all of you are very, very good at Vietnamese.(nhung thua Susan ^___^)

travel log
  • 02.13.08 - to the temple with Luan and his mom, good to be back
  • 02.14.08 - Mẫu's alive! and staying for the weekend
  • 02.15.08 - floor hockey and Thái food makes for some strange dreams
  • 02.17.08 - frisbee and swamp monster at the park: fun but I'm pooped!
  • 02.19.08 - just read Triết's response to my last post - game on!
  • 02.20.08 - raining and expected to continue through Sunday - thank goodness!
  • 02.21.08 - 3-hour nap is a bad idea right before bed
  • 02.23.08 - to the beach to watch kites, a baptism @ 5pm, and homemade bulgogi - what a day!
  • 02.25.08 - just gave myself a haircut - woo, cold head!
  • 02.26.08 - 75° and spring cleaning - couldn't feel better
  • 02.27.08 - fed the elders bún đậu tonight - think it's their first time
  • 03.01.08 - working on new background...
  • 03.02.08 - finalized javascript to change background without muffing up my other scripts
  • 03.03.08 - fhe: "In his strength I can do all things" (Alma 26:12)
  • 03.07.08 - some decisions are harder than others, but some are downright excruciating
  • 03.08.08 - there is life after work... i almost forgot
  • 03.11.08 - the distance between good and bad is much shorter than between better and best
  • 03.12.08 - conversion is sometimes a gradual process, so much so that we don't even notice
  • 03.14.08 - for some reason everything was a little harder today, looking forward for bed!
  • 03.15.08 - last night after blog reading, I missed OnlyBlue, today I find she's back
  • 03.16.08 - best day of my life!
  • 03.19.08 - "Pray for the answer that they've been looking for"
release notes v1.0 - FINALLY DONE!
  • 12.07 - first thought of starting a new blog
  • 01.08 - busy with election stuff but blog design still on back burner
  • 01.13.08 - first idea to imitate jk rowling with the "desk" theme
  • 01.28.08 - start sketching current design, breaking down development into phases
  • 02.02.08 - election only days away but still drafting final plans
  • 02.04.08 - v0.6 LAUNCH
    • main components (blog body, sidebar, header, etc) designed and implemented
    • styling for font, links, drop caps, etc. finished
  • 02.07.08 - v0.8 LAUNCH
    • image style to imitate polariod
    • moveability - post-it notes and static clings can be repositioned by drag and drop
    • release notes styled and written
  • 02.16.08 - travel log (beta) added in hopes of catching the mundane
  • 02.22.08 - lightbox 2.03 reinstalled and working fine (hopefully - let me know otherwise)
  • 02.26.08 - v0.9 LAUNCH
    • travel log seems to be working, so I'll keep it
    • lightbox also seems to have passed the test, so it's a keeper
    • some credits/info added to bottom (will expand)
    • keeping old Viet terms in archive for future viewing
  • 03.18.08 - v1.0 LAUNCH
    • installation and testing of time-sensitive background completed (for now)