MILWAUKEE—Annie Vang was two years old when her family came to the United States as refugees.
Annie Vang’s parents and many Hmong families are now in America. They were forced to move to Laos as Annie was growing up. to leave after the Hmong people sided with the US in the Vietnam War.
“They left everything behind to start a new life here, to try to live the American dream,” Vang said of her parents.
After the war, refugees fled Laos. Stories and histories were lost as Hmong was a historically spoken language that has recently been made into a written language.
Vang stated that not everything was recorded down in the past, especially during wartime, so everything was lost.
Vang’s family fled Laos and lived in a refugee settlement in Vietnam for several years before moving to Iowa. She lived in California, Minnesota and Wisconsin as a child.
California, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Wisconsin are today the three states with the largest Hmong population in the United States.
Vang relates how she felt the need to integrate into her new environment as a child. However, Vang began to lose her native language as well as her connections to her family’s history.
“Growing up in America, English was the primary language spoken here, so growing up I started to lose my identity as a Hmong American myself because I couldn’t communicate,” she said.
She decided to embrace the opportunities and skills offered by American life to reconnect with her roots. She is now an iOS app developer and web developer and has the Hmong Phrases phone application in 2011. She added more features to the app in the summer of 2021.
“I saw a gap. Vang spoke of her motivation for creating the app.
HmongPhrases includes phrases, words and sounds, as well as flashcards. Annie recorded her voice for the app in order to teach users the correct pronunciation. The app includes Hmong dialects in both green and white.
She explained that Hmong language is vital for identity purposes and communication. It is important to share our stories.
Vang also hopes other non-native Hmong speakers will use the app to learn more about Hmong culture.
I’m excited to hear Hmong spoken by a non-native speaker. It’s like they’re learning, and they’re curious. She said that she was willing to learn and share the knowledge she has learned.