Amy Tan’s Mother Tongue is a powerful essay about the author’s experience growing up with a mother who spoke limited English. Tan explores how her mother’s language affected her own education and self-identity.
Tan writes movingly about the challenges her mother faced in communicating with the outside world, and how this shaped Tan’s own view of language and communication. Mother Tongue is an important read for anyone interested in exploring the complex relationship between language and identity.
I’ve always had a difficult time differentiating between the many “Englishes” I have spoken or utilized, as well as the many I have heard throughout my life, particularly while in the military. For example, how I convey myself to authority figures vs. friends, and how I talk with my daughter rather than “educated” adults.
It also made me realize that, although I am not a native speaker of English, I have internalized the “rules” of grammar and usage to such an extent that I can usually speak “properly” when I need or want to. However, there are times when I slip into my own dialect of English, which is heavily influenced by my first language, Spanish.
In her essay, Tan discusses the various types of “Englishes” she has come across in her life. She starts with what she calls “broken” English, which is the type of English her mother speaks. Tan notes that this form of English is often seen as inferior by those who speak “standard” English. However, Tan argues that broken English is just as valid as any other form of the language.
Tan then goes on to discuss the different types of English she has used in her life. She notes that she often speaks “standard” English when she is around authority figures or when she wants to be taken seriously. However, she also slips into her own dialect of English when she is around friends or family members. This dialect is heavily influenced by her first language, Spanish.
Overall, Tan’s essay highlights the various ways in which English can be spoken and used. It also shows how speakers of different dialects can communicate with each other, despite the differences in their respective forms of the language.
When I’m with my pals and co-workers, my English is frequently full of casual language and strong swear words, but I would never use such language in most other situations. One of those times is when I spend time with my relatives, where there’s always a “please and thank you” ambiance. When I’m at work or school with a boss or teacher, for example, I’ll do my best to be professional by using sir or ma’am, for example.
I am not saying that one way of speaking is better than another, but rather that the way we speak reflects our upbringing and the different environments we find ourselves in throughout our lives. The way we speak also reveals something about our identity.
In Mother Tongue, Amy Tan writes about the difficulties she had growing up as a Chinese-American girl with a mother who spoke “broken” English. Tan often felt embarrassed by her mother and her limited language skills. It wasn’t until she became an adult and began writing that Tan realized the value in her mother’s unique way of speaking English.
While I will always try to use proper English when it is called for, I am also proud of my heritage and the different ways that people from my background speak. We all have our own unique way of communicating, and that is something to be celebrated, not ashamed of.
In Mother Tongue, Amy Tan discusses her love and passion for language, as well as the way language can elicit an emotion, a visual image, and how it’s a tool she employs in her everyday writing. She then explains how she is aware of the many ways she utilizes the English language while giving a speech to a group of people using her schooling knowledge of correct grammar that she has learnt throughout school, until she noticed her mother and began to recall how they converse with each other.
It’s almost as if she changes her language when talking to her mother, using simpler words and broken grammar, but yet she still understands everything her mother is saying. Amy Tan then starts to think about how the language that she uses with her mother is not a “broken” version of English, but it is actually a different language, one that was created between her and her mother, their own private form of communication. She goes on to say how this special language has shaped her and helped her become the writer she is today.
Amy Tan’s essay Mother Tongue is a beautiful tribute to the power of language. Tan shares her love of language and its ability to evoke emotion and create visual images. She also discusses how language can be a tool, something she uses everyday in writing. Tan is aware of the different ways she uses English, from the precise, correct grammar she learned in school to the simpler, broken grammar she uses with her mother.
She realizes that the language she uses with her mother is not a “broken” version of English, but actually a different language, one that was created between her and her mother, their own private form of communication. This special language has shaped Tan and helped her become the writer she is today. Mother Tongue is a touching essay that highlights the importance of language in our lives.
Tan begins by relating an encounter with her mother, in which the two were discussing the price of a piece of furniture. She has been speaking English like this since she was a kid, and it’s known as different language. Tan also comments on how intelligent her mother is. She reads Forbes magazine and listens to Wall Street Week on the radio every day to keep up with market trends.
However, she is often misunderstood because of her limited English. Amy Tan was born in 1952 in Oakland, California, the middle child and only daughter of Chinese immigrants. Her father, John, came to America in 1947 after spending twenty years in a British prison camp in China for being a member of the Nationalist army that fought against the Communists in the Chinese Civil War. Her mother, Daisy, had been brought to America by her parents when she was eight years old. Daisy later met and married John Tan in San Francisco’s Chinatown.
The family lived in various apartments around Oakland before eventually settling into a house on Webster Street when Amy was fifteen years old. It was while she was living on Webster Street that Amy began attending boarding school in Switzerland. She returned to the United States to attend college, first at Linfield College in Oregon and then at Mills College in Oakland.
Amy Tan’s first job after college was as a technical writer for a scientific instrument manufacturer. She later worked as a freelance writer and editor for several publications, including Mother Jones magazine. In 1986, she published her first book, a collection of essays about her Chinese-American childhood called The Joy Luck Club. The book was an instant success, and was made into a film directed by Wayne Wang in 1993.
Amy Tan has since published two more novels, The Kitchen God’s Wife (1991) and The Hundred Secret Senses (1995), as well as a collection of short stories, Saving Fish from Drowning (1995). She currently lives in San Francisco with her husband, Lou DeMattei, and their two sons.