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Mother Tongue by Amy Tan

By strimbur Jul 24, 2011 861 Words
In the essay Mother Tongue, Amy Tan talked about her love and fascination of language, and how language can evoke an emotion, a visual image, and how it’s a tool she uses everyday in writing. She then goes into how she is aware of the different ways she uses the English language, she was in a middle of a speech, talking very precise about her book to a group of people using her knowledge of correct grammar that she has learned throughout school, and books, until she spotted her mother, and started to reminisce about how she holds a conversation with her mom. She starts off by giving a example of a conversation with her mom, they were talking about a price of a piece of furniture and Tan heard herself saying, not waste money that way, and she knows this different kind of English , she has been speaking with her mother, family talk ,she calls it, all of her life. Tan also expresses how at the same time her mother is very intelligent. She reads Forbes report, listens to Wall Street Week, and converses daily with her stockbroker. Tan calls this "Broken" or "Fractured" English. Tan goes into a explanation about how she was also ashamed of her mother’s English, because Tan believed that her English reflected the quality of what she had to say. Tan states she thinks family is the major influence of the way one speaks a certain language. Because of her mother's influence over her life Tan decided to write a book using the English she grew up with, maybe not the correct grammar that critics might look for but people like her mother could enjoy, and find it an easy read (Tan, 2010). Response

I really enjoyed this essay that Tan wrote. Tan explains in many examples her struggles as a Chinese American and how she dealt with her mother and her use of proper English.. I don’t have the same struggles as Tan, so I think I would like to understand what she went through and how she dealt with and overcame the obstacles described in the essay, because I think it would make me understand more how a person can persevere through hardship and turn it into a positive thing. The way she started off reading her excellent grammar speech that she prided herself on was a great opening, and she then spotted her mother and started to think about old conversations, really brought me into her world with the words she quoted from her mother’s conversations. I liked how she also notes her mother’s broken English, because right after she defends her by saying things like, her mother reads Forbes report, listens to Wall Street Week, converses daily with her stockbroker, reads all of Shirley MacLaine’s books with ease. Tan is at the same time very honest and frank about her mother which I think is hard to do, examples given were how Tan said that her mother’s limited English limited her perception of her mother and how she was ashamed sometimes of the way she spoke. The biggest thing that stands out in my mind, and the reason it stands out is because I think it had to be very awkward and nerve racking , was a situation she had with her mother when she had to make a adult phone call (being a child) for her mother to her mother’s stockbroker while her mother was standing behind her telling her what to say in broken English and Tan trying to translate it to proper English and give it enough stout you could say to make it sound as if she was a adult knowing what she was talking about and wanted results. All of these things I imagine would have an effect on a child growing up. I think Tan took these experiences and turned it to an advantage, an advantage so she is not only breaking her own mold of herself by becoming a writer and speaking grammatical English, but also understanding that she should also embrace how her mother speaks and others out there . I think overall this is again a great essay and it makes me think how all of us are different, and how we should not put labels on people and what they should and shouldn’t do. I love the ending how she began writing fiction with words and sentences that would prove she has broken the mold, example was “The Joy Luck Club”, which I think she did enjoy writing, but then decided later that she would switch to writing stores which would include all “Types” of English. She did this keeping her mother in mind and wanting to be able to have her enjoy her work. Great ending on how all these struggles she went through only enhanced her sensitivity I think to her mother and hoping they have a great mother and daughter bond that will last forever.

Tan, A. (2010). Mother tongue. In L. Faigley ( Ed.), Writing: A guide for college and beyond. (pp. 101-107). New York, NY: Pearson

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