Study Guide

Inside Out & Back Again Language and Communication

By Thanhha Lai

Language and Communication

Considering that Hà and her family move from Saigon to Alabama in Inside Out and Back Again, it comes as no surprise that language and communication is a theme in this book. After all, Vietnamese and English are about as different as two languages can get, so Hà and her family don't just find themselves in a completely foreign country, but in a place they barely know the language of. This leads to all kinds of difficulty for them as they struggle to learn English, navigating prejudice and miscommunication as they go.

Hà would happily not learn English, what with all its ridiculous rules, but by the end of the book, she is happy to know at least a few American insults to throw at Pink Boy. English might not make any sense, but it sure comes in handy for shutting a bully up in Alabama.

Questions About Language and Communication

  1. How does Hà's family communicate when in Saigon? Does it change when they flee? How?
  2. How does speaking a foreign language in America affect Hà? How does it affect her mother? 
  3. What other things change communication in Hà's family in this book? How do they cope with the changes?
  4. How does your family communicate? Do you notice similarities/differences from Hà's family?

Chew on This

Language in this book is essential for communication; when language isn't involved, everything is confusing.

Hà and her brother Khoi communicate the best, and they don't even need language.

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