Language is an invitation

Language is an invitation

Written by Pham Quang Linh

This year, after four trainings in English-only, Art of Hosting Vietnam will officially be available in Vietnamese. As one of the people who made the decision above, I am very happy, and also very scared.

I’m scared because our work organizing the training just increases tenfold; the writing alone is doubled. And as of now we still don’t know how we will incorporate Vietnamese. When discussing this decision, we received many warnings such as ‘it would be too difficult to hold a bilingual training,’ and ‘the process would be too slow.’ Plus there are still too many words that when translated still sound quite strange. Every time I say “collective intelligence” or “co-creation” in Vietnamese, I often get squinty eyes like “what the hell did he just say?”

But if the training is held in only English again, then like Trang—the other person who made the decision with me—said: “it would be a step back for the Vietnam field.”

In the last training, for the first time ever someone spoke Vietnamese in the big circle. It was the last check-out of the course, and Thu Lành used Vietnamese for her sharing. Honestly I don’t remember what she said, I just remember I was transfixed with her voice. When the circle was over and people began saying goodbyes, I came to her and thanked her for bringing our mother tongue into the training. Then suddenly, before she could respond, I started crying. It made her cry, too. And we just stood there holding each other in tears, amidst a room full of hugs and laughter.

At that time I didn’t understand why I was so moved. Only now do I realize, it was the moment I knew that my dream was possible.

For a long time I have dreamt of inviting my parents to the Art of Hosting. On one hand, I want them to know what I do, on the other, I want to share the practice. In my family I’m lucky that my wife is also a fellow practitioner. Because of that we can be better together and build a good environment for our daughter. Now and then I need to have courageous conversations with my parents as well, and it would be so much easier if we share the practice.

I also wonder, what might happen when a family, a neighborhood, a people share the practice with meaningful conversations? What beauty may emerge?

When using Vietnamese, I also learn new things about the practice that I thought I knew well. The word “host”, for example, my friends in China translate it as “chủ”, which can mean being the owner of something. I am stealing that translation because the AoH Companion Guide says “hosting is an act of leadership.” What has more leadership than taking ownership of a space and inviting others to participate?
And so the training this year will have Vietnamese along with English. We really want to invite the grandparents, the community leaders…to come and be in dialogue around this year’s calling question—to rediscover the art of being a neighbor. While there is still much uncertainty, I am excited. Because I know I will learn a lot, and I get to share the circle with my family.