Linh Heintz

English Language Acquisition

Linh Heintz was excited when she learned that she had family on the other side of the world. Heintz, who was born in a small town in the south of Vietnam, had lived her entire life not knowing who her father was. Like many children born overseas to Vietnamese mothers and U.S. service members during the Vietnam War — often referred to as Amerasians — Heintz faced severe discrimination.

“Growing up as a half American was really tough, especially when the war was over,” stated Heintz. “I was bullied and assaulted by other kids at school because they hated me for having an American dad. Every day at school, I would hide in the classroom with my teachers instead of playing outside with everyone because I was afraid that they would hit me. It got to the point that I got too scared [and] I had to stop going to school. I did not even finish second grade at that time.”

After spending nearly 20 years trying to locate her father, Heintz decided to try taking a DNA test in 2012. When no new information came to light, she lost hope of ever knowing who her birth father was. That all changed in 2017 when she received a call from the person who helped get her DNA tested.

“He told me that he had found my father and he was going to connect a phone call to my half-sister right then. It felt unreal to me at the time, and I could not process what was going on. But when I heard my sister’s voice in the phone, we both burst into tears,” she continued.

After connecting with her father’s family, Heintz, her husband and daughter began the process of immigrating to the United States. The couple had been trying to relocate since 1991, but past requests had been denied. With the support of her new family, they finally were granted approval to immigrate to the U.S. and moved to Yakima, Wash., to live with her father.

“Coming to the U.S. was the best thing that has ever happened to me. I love everything here,” continued Heintz.

When the family first moved, Heintz spoke no English and relied completely on her daughter to communicate with other family members. After a Vietnamese friend suggested Yakima Valley College’s English Language Acquisition (ELA) program, Heintz reached out to get started. With the goal of learning English and being able to communicate with her new family and community, she began attending classes in Spring 2020.

“When I went to YVC to sign up and take the placement test, everyone there were so nice and helpful,” Heintz said. After three quarters in the program, her decision has paid significant dividends.

“I highly recommend this program to everyone trying to learn or improve their English. As a person who did not have much education and studying experience, I’ve learned a lot and now I am able to communicate more in English,” stated Heintz.

Overcoming barriers to find success Heintz is thankful to YVC’s program for opening doors for her and her family.

Heintz describes herself as a shy person and she initially felt anxiety about attending class because of her limited ability to speak and understand English.

“It took me the first couple weeks to get to know everyone [in class] and adapt. But after overcoming these barriers the classes became so fun and interesting,” she said. “The teacher is so nice and patient towards the students and everyone in class is so friendly. I look forward to class every day now.”

Linh’s daughter Nhu says that YVC’s program has done absolute wonders for her mother and the entire family.

“My mom has learned so much and it really changed the way she interacts with other people. Before she attended classes at YVC, she was shy and never wanted to go out for dinner or go to any party. Even when we have parties or people coming over to our house, she would just sit in the corner because she could not talk nor understand what others are talking about. But now after three quarters at YVC, she’s become more confident in herself and more social with everyone.”

As Linh learns more English, she looks forward to getting more involved in the community.

“Learning English is the first step that I need. I have never imagined going back to school at this age but this program helped me so much in bettering my English,” she concluded.

Following her mother’s example, Nhu began attending YVC’s Running Start program during her senior year of high school.

“The program has helped me so much both in my education and financially. I finished all my prerequisites for the college program I intended to go into while still being in high school. I was not only able to cut short one year of studying but also save the money that I would have paid for my tuition,” stated Au.

Nhu has applied to YVC’s Radiologic Science program and, if accepted, hopes to transfer to Boise State University after completing her associate degree.

Three years ago, Linh’s family was featured in the Dateline story, “Father’s Day,” which includes interviews and chronicles their journey.