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Dustin LindenSmith

father | musician | writer

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I am little brother

Someone from Halifax who is working in Hanoi, Vietnam recently wrote an e-mail to a local CBC Radio show to describe his experiences. They read a portion of it on the air, and a really interesting bit was concerned with how the concept of "I" is expressed in Vietnamese.

Apparently there is no word for "I" or "you" in the language. Instead, one refers to oneself in relation to whomever they're speaking with, so that if you were a man and you were speaking to a woman a bit older than you, you might say, "Hello, and how is older sister today? Little brother (referring to yourself) is doing well." An older woman speaking with a young girl might refer to her as "little niece," and so on. Nobody ever refers to themselves as "me" and "you"; rather, they use a descriptive expression of the space in which they occupy in relation to the subject.

Not super profound, but interesting nonetheless. If how language is used might connote an understanding of the self in relation to the other, perhaps the Vietnamese culture is more inherently grounded in the notion that we all come from the same source.

PS: Just came across nobody_ after she was referenced in a recent NDHighlights. Very hip journal from a bright young woman in CA.