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“The translator makes it more fun than just giving the children books. Now parents can tell them, look, you can still socialize with your friends, but you can do it in Hmong,” Yang said.

And the language can support more than just communication, community members said.

“Along with learning the language, the children get immersed in the culture and that promotes their identity,” said Vicky Xiong, a second grade teacher in the Clovis Unified School District. “The language will give them pride in themselves and their people.”

Xiong said she realized the importance of teaching the language when her U.S. born 6th grader son _ now a freshman at Fresno State _ told her, “Mom, I don’t want to be Hmong anymore. Let’s speak only in English.” She enrolled him in a language class offered by Stone Soup, a Fresno Hmong nonprofit, but few such classes are available, she said.

Joshua Lor, Xiong’s son, said he eventually realized the importance of the language.

“My grandpa told me stories about the Hmong, about how he served in the war, and how they moved from Laos to Thailand to America,” Lor said. “The language opened my eyes to the history of Hmong culture. It’s exciting that the translator can help kids do that.”