Amy Tan’s Mother Tongue is a powerful essay about the author’s experience with her own language and culture. Tan writes about how her mother’s “broken” English has shaped her own view of language and identity. She also discusses the impact of growing up in a bilingual household, and how that has influenced her own writing.
Tan’s essay is deeply personal, but it also speaks to larger issues of immigrant experiences and the challenges of living in a multicultural society. Mother Tongue is an important work that challenges our assumptions about language and identity.
Like “mother,” these are words that can be interchanged with the word “origin.” Everything has an origin, and language is no exception. Language evolves or is elevated over time, much like everything else. Various languages are native to various people and some is protected through time, whether it’s through books or human thought. Amy Tan explores the making of her language and her mother’s role in it through her literary talents in “Mother Tongue” to connect to the reader like me in her work.
Amy Tan’s “Mother Tongue” is an essay discussing the difficulties of communication between a mother tongue speaker and her daughter. Tan begins by pointing out that she is not a scholar of English or literature, but a writer. She writes mostly about her mother tongue, which she calls “broken” English.
It is this type of English that allowed Tan to see the power of language. As someone who speaks “broken” English, I can understand where Tan is coming from. I too have felt the power of language and how it can be used to express myself in ways that Standard English cannot.
In her essay, Tan discusses how her mother’s broken English has shaped her own view of language. She notes that her mother’s use of English has allowed her to see the “beauty and rhythm” in the language (Tan, Mother Tongue). I can relate to this as well. As someone who is not a native speaker of English, I have often found myself admiring the beauty of the language, even if I cannot always understand it perfectly.
Tan goes on to discuss how her mother’s broken English has also led her to view communication in a different way. She describes how her mother would often mix up words or use them in incorrect ways, but she would still be able to get her point across. This led Tan to realize that communication is about understanding the message, not just the words. I think this is an important point that is often lost in translation. We often focus on the words themselves, rather than the message that is being communicated.
Overall, I found Amy Tan’s “Mother Tongue” to be a very relatable essay. As someone who is not a native speaker of English, I could relate to her experiences with language and communication. I think her essay highlights the importance of understanding the message, not just the words. It is also a reminder that we should appreciate the beauty of all languages, even if we do not understand them perfectly.
Amy Tan believes her English is a fusion of many “Englishes,” as she is the first-generation Asian American. The “simple” English she speaks to her mother, the “broken” English her mother uses, and the translation of her mother’s Chinese that she considers “watered down,” as well as the perfect English her mother would use to translate her own Chinese if she could.
These multiple Englishes have shaped Tan and her writing. Tan opens Mother Tongue with a brief introduction to the different kinds of English she uses. She then gives several examples of how her use of language has caused her to be misunderstood, both by people who speak “standard” English and by those who speak other varieties of English.
In one incident, Tan’s mother is hospitalized after suffering a brain aneurysm. The doctors misdiagnose her condition because they cannot understand her broken English. In another incident, Tan is told by her editor that her writing is too difficult for the average reader to understand.
Despite these challenges, Tan says that she would not change the way she speaks or writes, because it is a part of her identity. She closes Mother Tongue by saying that she has come to appreciate the different Englishes she uses, and that they have made her a more flexible writer.
Amy Tan’s “Mother Tongue” is a powerful essay about the prejudices bilinguals face.
Though Amy Tan’s “Mother Tongue” is about her own experiences as a bilingual Chinese American, it speaks to the experiences of many other immigrants who come to the United States. Tan highlights the challenges that come with living in a country where one’s native language is not the dominant language. She also sheds light on how something as seemingly innocuous as language can be used to prejudice and discriminate against people.
Tan’s essay is important in helping to understand the experiences of immigrants, and the challenges they face in trying to assimilate to a new culture. It is also a reminder that language is more than just a means of communication; it is also a reflection of one’s identity.
“So, with my mother in mind… I began writing tales employing all the Englishes I had grown up with” (38). Tan goes on to discuss how her “Englishes” and her mother have influenced her writing and successful career as an Asian American woman in American literature.
Amy Tan’s “Mother Tongue” is a powerful essay about the implications of language. Tan effectively argues that we need to acknowledge and embrace the different “Englishes” spoken in America, rather than judging them as inferior.
Tan’s mother tongue is not Standard English, but the hybrid language she speaks with her family and friends. This language is full of slang, errors, and non-standard grammar, but it is also full of warmth, love, and connection. It is this language that Tan says has shaped her as a writer.
Tan writes movingly about how her relationship with her mother has been affected by their different Englishes. She recalls how her mother would ask her to help translate letters or interpret phone calls, and how their conversations would be full of misunderstandings.
Despite the challenges, Tan says that she would not trade her mother tongue for any other. It is a part of who she is, and it has given her a unique perspective as a writer.
Through her personification, Amy Tan makes “English” something that is always evolving and being nurtured. She instructs the reader in how she first recognized her various “Englishes,” how they have influenced her life, and how they have impacted her writing using organizational abilities. Even if you’re not bilingual, Tan’s use of pathos in describing her mother’s battle to get testing results for a brain tumor because of prejudice she received due to poor English appeals to you.
Amy Tan opens her essay “Mother Tongue” with the idea of Language being a tool like any other. It is understandable that everyone has different levels of comfort and expertise with different tools, be it a physical one such as a hammer or saw, or something less tangible like using English.
Just as there are different types of Englishes, she argues that there are also different uses for language. While some people might use it to communicate their ideas and feelings, others might use it as a way to assert power over others. Tan then goes on to discuss how her own personal experiences have shaped her views on language.
She recalls how she first became aware of the different Englishes she spoke, growing up in a household with a mother who did not speak English as her first language. Tan would often translate for her mother, and as a result, she became very aware of the different ways that English could be used. This led her to believe that there were different levels of English, with some being more “proper” than others.