Hmong

Kwv Txhiaj

Kwv Txhiaj, or Hmong Song Poetry, is the art form that perhaps best captures the zeitgeist of Hmong culture. Sung in such a way as to echo the instantly-recognizable tones of the qeej (or perhaps the qeej echos the kwv txhiaj), these compositions have been used to pass down history and culture. Often melancholy, they speak of longing: for loved ones who’ve passed away, for a lost homeland, or for a family that life has forced you to leave behind. Linguistically, these songs are incredibly rich, using the most advanced expressions, metaphors, and descriptions that the language offers. As such, kwv txhiaj can be difficult to understand, especially for the uninitiated. However, the payoff is extraordinary; kwv txhiaj capture emotion in a unique way, acting as a catharsis not just for an author or singer, but for a people. They are songs of mourning, yes, but they are also monuments to the resilience of Hmong around the globe, exquisitely beautiful even as they are impossibly sad. So, as we turn to our activity today, reading kwv txhiaj in an attempt to practice our comprehension of advanced expression, I’ll warn you-it may be the most difficult type of Hmong reading you ever do. Are you up for the challenge?


This is a two-part activity; first, use the flashcards below to familiarize yourself with small number of expressive rterms, the type of language you will encounter more regularly in a kwv txhiaj. Afterwards, read and translate the kwv txhiaj excerpt below. To check your translation, see page 219 in Bee Vang-Moua’s YuamSij Qhib Lus: Success in Hmong for Accelerated Learners. Finally, as a reward for your hard work, listen to the samples of kwv txhiaj included below! See how much you can understand, but don’t stress out about your comprehension; they’re there to enjoy, not to test!

 

 

 

 


Read and translate the kwv txhiaj below!

 

-Niam leej ntxhais, kooj txig ya ntxuaj tis txawj ya tsis txawj tsaws yuav tsaws ntua tuaj rau saum zeb. Niam leej ntxhais koj muab leej niam leej txiv lub paj tsiab pebcaug noj tas nrho, yuav ntaus siab ntoj ntug ua nyab zoj zim lawm luag teb.

-Niam leej ntxhais, kooj txig ya ntxuaj tis txawj ya tsis txawj tsaws yuav tsaws ntua tuaj rau saum ca. Niam leej ntxhais koj muab leej niam leej txiv lub paj tsiab pecaug noj tas nrho, yuav ntaus siab ntoj ntug ua nyab zoj zim lawm luag nrag.

-Niam leej ntxhais nce hlo lub toj nto tig ntiaj lees los saib qab tsis pom niaj dab tus tsav tsi, yuav pom zoj niam liab me cuam tuav tes los lawm tej sib niab. Niam leej ntxhais yuav tig ntsia leej niam leej txiv rab teb rooj ntug no tus toj roob hauv pes laug taw ntshuj ntsho xws nre tiab.

-Niam leej ntxhais nce hlo lub toj nto tig ntiaj lees los saib qab tsis pom niaj dab tus tsav tsi, yuav pom zoj niam liab me cuam tuav tes los lawm tej sib zawv. Niam leej ntxhais yuav tig ntsia leej niam leej txiv rab teb rooj ntug no tus toj roob hauv pes laug taw ntshuj ntsho xws nre ntawv.

 


Finally, check out this example of a kwv txhiaj!

 

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Resources for Self-Instructional Learners of Less Commonly Taught Languages by University of Wisconsin-Madison Students in African 671 is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.