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Literal Translation:  Only when you have food can you attain your path in life.
English Equivalent: “It's no use preaching to a hungry man” 
                    or “A hungry belly has no ears”

Our proverb choice for June fits into this issue’s theme of food. “Thực” means to eat, while “đạo” refers to grand, philosophical/ spiritual motifs such as morality (“đạo đức”), beliefs (“đạo lý”), and religion (“đạo”). Supposing that the proverb does not literally mean morality or beliefs, but is actually a metaphor for great goals, the proverb notes that in order to pursue and achieve great things, you must first have strength and good health.

Having food and energy is the prerequisite to accomplishing anything. But the proverb also carries a more profound meaning – within life, you must handle more practical and tangible things first (as represented by food) before you chase after things beyond your immediate reach, such as dreams and goals. Interestingly enough, the proverb’s message is similar to Western theories such as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

Only when physiological needs at the first level are sufficiently met will humans be able to move on to the next stage. These include security through income, employment, property and work. The final stage is defined as Self-Transcendence, focusing on spiritual and intrinsic needs.

While the Vietnamese proverb emphasizes the need to eat in order to have energy to work towards goals, the English equivalent suggests that hungry people need to satisfy hunger before concentrating on anything else.