Language Barrier Makes Hmong Parents in Fresno Feel Like ‘Outcasts’

Jan. 20, 2014 / By

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By Colby Tilbbet / The Know Youth Media

FRESNO — Hmong parents and community members gathered for a listening session here last month where they weighed in on the debate over how local school districts should be allocating their state funds.  By the end of the discussion, the message was clear: a lack of translation services for Hmong speakers is the greatest barrier to that community’s engagement with Fresno Unified (FUSD) schools.

“When I go (to school meetings), I feel like I’m an outcast,” said Yeng Xiong, a mother of two and a native Hmong speaker. Xiong said she still attends the school meetings, even though there is never a translator for her.

Hmong youth make up the second largest group of English Language Learner (ELL) students in FUSD, with Spanish-speaking students being the largest, according to the California Department of Education. Hmong are the largest Asian ethnic group in the City of Fresno, with a population of 31,771, or 3.6 percent of the city’s total population, according to 2010 census figures. In the U.S., only Minneapolis boasts alarger Hmong community (64,422) than Fresno.

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