Little Ketchup Girl

How hard can it be to go up to the counter at McDonald’s and ask for ketchup? The answer might depend on how confident you are in English.

Michelle Bazargan was a little girl when bombs began exploding outside her home in Tehran. It was then that her mother decided it was too dangerous to remain. Thus begins the story of one Iranian family and their challenges of becoming American. Sometimes trauma can leave people irreversibly damaged. Other times trauma can leave people irreversibly dedicated to helping others. Listen to episode 6 of America the Bilingual to hear what happened when that little girl grew up.

Michelle and her mother standing on snow

Michelle and her mother in Tehran

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America the Bilingual is a storytelling podcast for Americans who are learning their next language, or would like to start. It also puts forth a vision of an America where it is normal to be bilingual. Subscribe on iTunes or wherever you listen to podcasts and hear a new episode every two weeks. (If you use Twitter, I’ll let you know about future episodes there as well.)

TEDx Talk by Michelle Barzargan

Iranian Americans in Literature

So many talented authors have written about the American immigrant experience. One of these is Andre Dubus III, author of House of Sand and Fog, a book that, although I read it 15 years ago, still lives in me, and still shakes me. Written in the author’s car in the dark early morning hours before he began his real job, House of Sand and Fog became a finalist for the 1999 National Book Award in fiction. It also became a movie starring Ben Kingsley, Jennifer Connelly and Iranian actress Shohreh Aghdashloo, who won an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actress.


American the Bilingual is part of the Lead with Languages campaign of ACTFL — The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages.

This episode was written by me, Steve Leveen, and our producer Fernando Hernández who also does sound design and mixing. Our editorial consultants are Maja Thomas and Mim Harrison, research assistance from Associate Producer, Beckie Rankin.

Graphic Arts are created by Carlos Plaza Design Studio.


Music and sounds in this episode, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike License, by:

Kevin Macleod — Beach Party and Quasi motion

Francisco Penilla —Bombita

Jorge Mario Zuleta — Falta seis

Monplaisir — terror party

Mystery Mammal — upright

Sounds and Fx

Yle Arkisto — Bombing, air raid alarm, mix

Danielson III — Rumble bass

Paisagemsonoraunila — At the bus terminal near the bus with the engine running

Dggrunzweig — Sound of bus

Stevious42 — Inside moving bus

Noise collector — Mcdonalds

Additional Music (ESCAPE, ADVENTURE) (playful mistery) (invasion preamble)