Language and Culture
A good portion of Americans today speak English as their first language. However, what makes us different is that it is rare to find two people that speak the exact same English. This is the argument Amy Tan makes in her story “Mother Tongue.” She shares her personal story of the English she speaks, and how much the people you are around can change the way you converse. Born in the United States to immigrant parents from China, Amy Tan failed her mother’s expectations that she become a doctor and concert pianist. She settled for writing fiction. Her novels are The Joy Luck Club, The Kitchen God’s Wife, The Hundred Secret Senses, The Bonesetter’s Daughter, and Saving Fish Form Drowning, all New York Times bestsellers and the recipients of various awards. Her work has been translated into 35 different languages, from Spanish, French, Finish to Chinese, Arabic, and Hebrew (Tan, Website). In the essay “Mother Tongue” Tan discusses many issues including language and cultural barriers faced by her and her family when she was growing up. Tan also discusses stereotypes and lack of respect brought on by her ethnic background and the struggles brought about by being Asian in America. She explains communication problems between her and her mother although they were very close. She constantly had to be the translator for her mother, which was embarrassing for Tan. She felt the world thought her mother was inferior because she could not speak English well, though her mother was an intelligent being. And the set backs faced because of these communication problems that her family had with the rest of society. While at home, Tan speaks to her mother in a “broken” sort of choppy English that she can understand. When she is talking to people she works with or deals with on a more business-oriented basis, she uses clearly spoken, grammatically correct, standard English. It was not until giving a speech in a room that her mother was a...
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