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Laotian American Professor Takes a Leading Role in American Literature


Although English is not her mother tongue and she did not come to the United States at a very young age, Toon Phapphayboun mastered the language well enough to become a literature teacher. She migrated to this country as a teenager in 1981, resettling in Los Angeles where she started learning English as a second language. To many immigrants of any nation English is considered a very difficult language. But Toon never gave up. She studied very hard, determined to master the language, and majored in English in college.

Toon said to VOA "I told myself: since English is a very difficult language, why not study it all the way and see how I can take it. I considered myself a very gifted person in languages. My grade in English was better than any other subjects. So I made English my major in college."

Toon added that she is very proud to have taken this teaching career choice, a career that enables her to help her very own people. Because of her background, being a refugee like many of her students, she understands their problems and difficulties and wants to help because she relates to them well.

Toon used her personal experience in her work. She enjoys her teaching job immensely, saying "I've had this job for over a decade now; teaching is my everyday routine, second to nature. It's easy to me; preparing lessons and reading papers. I am teaching American Literature and I have all kind of students' background. Even though I don't teach English as a second language, I still teach grammar to some of my students because English is one of the difficult language. Even for American natives, they still struggle with English grammar," she explained.

Toon also shares with us about her lifelong dreams to help her own motherland, Laos. Her wish is to have an exchange program where American teachers go to Laos to teach and their Lao counterparts come to the United States. "The day we make that happen will be the day my dreams come true," she concluded.

Currently, the Lao-American teacher plays a big role in helping the Center for Lao Studies to promote a great cause.

Listen to audio files for the whole story.

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