A Summary and Analysis of Amy Tan’s ‘Mother Tongue’
By Dr Oliver Tearle (Loughborough University)
‘Mother Tongue’ is an essay by Amy Tan, an American author who was born to Chinese immigrants in 1952. Tan wrote ‘Mother Tongue’ in 1990, a year after her novel The Joy Luck Club was a runaway success. In the essay, Tan discusses her relationship with language, and how her mother’s influence has shaped her use of English, as well as her attitude to it.
You can read ‘Mother Tongue’ here before proceeding to our summary and analysis of Amy Tan’s essay below.
‘Mother Tongue’: summary
Amy Tan begins her essay by offering her personal opinions on the English language. She recalls a recent talk she gave, when, upon realising her mother was in the audience, she was confronted with the fact that the formal standard English she was using in the public talk was at odds with the way she spoke at home with her mother. She then contrasts this with a moment when she was walking down the street with her mother and she used the more clipped, informal English she naturally uses with her mother, and her husband.
Tan calls this a ‘language of intimacy’. She points out that her mother is intelligent and reads things which Tan herself cannot begin to understand. But many people who hear her mother speak can only partially understand what she is saying, and some even say they can understand nothing of what she says, as if she were speaking pure Chinese to them.
Tan calls this clipped informal language her ‘mother tongue’, because it was the first language she learned and it helped to shape the way she saw the world and made sense of it.
Tan notes the difficulty of finding a term to describe the style of English her mother, as a Chinese immigrant to the United States, speaks. Many of the terms, such as ‘broken’ or ‘limited’, are too negative and imply her English is imperfect.
She acknowledges that when she was growing up, she was ashamed of the way her mother spoke. Her mother, too, was clearly aware of how her use of the language affected how seriously people took her, for she used to get her daughter to phone people and pretend to be ‘Mrs Tan’.
She observes that her mother is treated differently because of the way she speaks. She recounts a time when the doctors at the hospital were unsympathetic towards her mother when they lost the results of the CAT scan they had undertaken on her brain, but as soon as the hospital – at her mother’s insistence – called her daughter, they issued a grovelling apology.
Amy Tan also believes her mother’s English affected her daughter’s school results. Tan acknowledges that, whilst she did well in maths and science, subjects with a single correct answer, she was less adept at English. She struggled with tests which asked students to pick a correct word to fill in the blanks in a sentence because she was distracted by the imaginative and poetic possibilities of other words.
Indeed, Tan conjectures that many Asian American children are probably encouraged to pursue careers in jobs requiring maths and science rather than English for this reason. But because she is rebellious and likes to challenge people’s assumptions about her, Tan bucked this trend. She majored in English at college and began writing as a freelancer.
She began writing fiction in 1985, and after several false starts trying to find her own style and idiom, she began to write with her mother in mind as the ideal reader for her stories. Indeed, her mother read drafts of her work.
And Tan drew on all the Englishes , plural, that she knew: the ‘broken’ English her mother used, the ‘simple’ English Tan used when talking to her mother, the ‘watered-down’ Chinese her mother used, and her mother’s ‘internal’ language which conveyed her passion, intent, imagery, and the nature of her thoughts. When her mother told her that what she had written was easy to read, Tan knew that she had succeeded in her aims as a writer.
‘Mother Tongue’: analysis
The title of Amy Tan’s essay is a pun on the expression ‘mother tongue’, referring to one’s first language. But Tan’s language, or ‘tongue’, has been shaped by her actual mother, whose first language (or mother tongue) was not English, but Chinese.
The different forms of English that mother and daughter speak are also a product of their backgrounds: whilst Tan’s mother is a Chinese immigrant to America, Tan was born in the United States and has grown up, and been educated, in an English-speaking culture.
Much of Tan’s 1989 novel The Joy Luck Club is about daughters and their relationships with their mothers. But Tan’s interest in language, both as a cultural marker and as a way of expressing thought and personality, is also a prevailing theme of the novel.
In this respect, if the parable ‘ Feathers from a Thousand Li Away ’ acts as preface to the novel, ‘Mother Tongue’, in effect, acts as a kind of postscript. It helps us to understand the way Tan approaches and uses language within the stories that make up The Joy Luck Club .
An overarching theme of Tan’s novel is mothers emigrating to America in the hope that their daughters will have better lives than they did. This is a key part of ‘Feathers from a Thousand Li Away’, and it helps us to understand Tan’s conflicted attitude towards her mother’s use of language as explored in ‘Mother Tongue’.
Many of the mothers in The Joy Luck Club , such as Betty St. Clair in ‘The Voice from the Wall’, feel isolated from those around them, never at home in America, and hyper-aware of their outsider status, despite becoming legal permanent citizens in the country. Tan’s autobiographical revelations in ‘Mother Tongue’ show us that her own mother struggled to be taken seriously among Americans, and Tan diagnoses this struggle as a result of her mother’s different way of speaking.
Tan, by contrast, used standard English – what used to be referred to, in loaded phrases, as ‘correct’ or ‘proper’ English – and was thus able to succeed in getting herself, and by extension her mother, taken seriously by others. Language is thus more than just a cultural marker: Tan reveals, in ‘Mother Tongue’, the extent to which it is a tool of power (or, depending on the use, powerlessness), particularly for those from migrant backgrounds.
In this connection, it is noteworthy that Tan chooses to focus on the school tests she undertook before concluding that her mother’s ‘broken’ style of English has been misunderstood – not just literally (by some people who’ve known her), but in terms of the misleading perceptions of her it has led others to formulate.
The class tests at school which reduced English proficiency to an ability to recognise a ‘correct’ answer are thus contrasted with Tan’s resounding final words of ‘Mother Tongue’, which see her seeking to capture the passion of her mother, the ‘nature of her thoughts’, and the imagery she uses: all things which her daughter has clearly inherited a respect for, and which school tests fail to capture or observe.
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Summary and Study Guide
Summary: “mother tongue”.
“Mother Tongue” explores Amy Tan’s relationship with the English language, her mother, and writing. This nonfiction narrative essay was originally given as a talk during the 1989 State of the Language Symposium; it was later published by The Threepenny Review in 1990. Since then, “Mother Tongue” has been anthologized countless times and won notable awards and honors, including being selected for the 1991 edition of Best American Essays .
The original publication of “Mother Tongue,” which this study guide refers to, breaks the essay into three sections. In the first Tan briefly primes the reader on her relationship with “different Englishes” (7). Tan bridges the first and second parts of the essay with descriptions of her “mother’s English,” or her “mother tongue” (7). In the second section Tan describes the impact her mother’s language had on her; Tan’s mother is a Chinese immigrant who often relied on her daughter to produce “perfect English” (7). In the concluding section Tan then connects her mother’s English to Tan’s own choices regarding writing style and career.
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In the initial section of “Mother Tongue,” Amy Tan locates her position as “a writer… someone who has always loved language” (7). She describes the multiple Englishes that she uses, from formal academic language to the English she uses with her mother to the English she uses at home with her husband. The section concludes with Tan’s description of her mother’s “expressive command of English” (7), which is in conflict with her mother’s fluency in the language. Although her mother might speak English that is difficult for native speakers to understand, to Tan, her mother’s language is “vivid, direct, full of observation and imagery” (7).
As Tan moves through the second section of “Mother Tongue,” she describes some of the more difficult aspects of being raised by a parent who spoke English that others struggled to understand. Tan references the oft-used language of “broken” English and suggests that her mother’s English and way of speaking, despite its obvious interpersonal and social limitations (including harming Tan’s performance on such metrics as standardized tests), provided Tan a different semantic way of understanding the world.
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The final section of “Mother Tongue” transitions into personal reflection as Tan describes how she has reckoned with being raised by her mother in a xenophobic society. As a writer, Tan only found success when she moved away from more proper, academic register and instead wrote “in the Englishes [she] grew up with” (8). The essay concludes with Tan’s mother’s opinion about Tan’s most famous novel, The Joy Luck Club , in which Tan attempted to write in this fashion. Her mother’s “verdict: ‘So easy to read’” (8).
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“Mother Tongue” by Amy Tan
- Read “Mother Tongue” by Amy Tan. Write a response to the reading, using the following questions as a guide. It should be approximately 250 words and can be hand written or typed. Be prepared to share in class.
- Amy Tan writes, “Recently, I was made keenly aware of the different Englishes I do use.” How does she describe these “Englishes?”
- What does Amy Tan mean when she uses the term “mother tongue?”
- What was Amy Tan’s perspective on her mother’s English as a child? How does it change over time? What influences led to her shift in perspectives?
- Why do you think Amy Tan wrote this article? Who do you think is her intended audience?
- Think about your relationship to the languages in your life. Describe at least two different languages or forms of language that you use either in speaking or writing. For example, when you text or email vs. when you speak. Or when you speak to a family member vs. a friend. Or a professor vs. a friend. Does it change depending on your audience? How? Why?
Amy Tan Reading , Reading Response
September 2, 2020 at 6:36 pm
Amy explains the different variations of English that she uses in different life situations and occasions. When speaking about her book, she explains she uses her “standard English”. To her that is the English her teachers forced upon her during learning in school. The standard English was what she learned from books and articles, although she made an observation while speaking about her book. Amy’s mom was present in the room, for the first time during her presentation. That is when she realized that the English she often speaks with her mom is not so much of conditional phrases, she describes that kind of English as “our language of intimacy”. The kind of English she grew up really using among her household, based on her culture. Amy uses this expression called, “mother tongue” as symbolism of her mother’s way of communicating, her own unique language. Growing up Amy saw her mother’s English as “broken” and “limited”, because in school the English she was taught didn’t sound like how her mother spoke. As Amy grew up she saw her mother not being taken seriously in public stores and spaces; it supported her theory that her mom spoke a ‘broken” form of English. In my personal life I have also observed the variations in the different kinds of Englishes around. I am a teenager so at heart I text using abbreviations, slang words and improper English. However the way I text my best friend is not the way I text a professor or someone doing a service for me. You have to alter your English for different occasions. That’s something I learned in my 18 years of living. There is a time and place for everything. Just like in an interview I would not be using slang and improper English to speak. I would use “standard English” like Amy described.
September 6, 2020 at 9:46 pm
Shaniyah, I love your observation about how often we have to alter the way we speak for different occasions. We are going to talk a lot more about this in class, and I would love you to raise it during our class discussion!
September 4, 2020 at 11:06 pm
Reading Amy Tan’s story called Mother Tongue has me questioning a few things like what are the different Englishes she uses? What is the mother tongue she is talking about? Why did she add the part about her mom when her mother was younger? Amy tan writes, “Recently, I was made keenly aware of the different Englishes I do use”. The way she describes these Englishes are by first talking about the way she uses it in the group lecture. In paragraph 3 Lines 4-7 it states “My mother was in the room. And it was perhaps the first time she had heard me give a lengthy speech, using the kind of English I Have never used with her, I was saying things like, “The intersection of memory upon imagination”. This quote shows like if her mom was surprised about the English her daughter is using that means there is more there that meets the eye. When Amy Tan had used the word “mother tongue” to describe her mother English at first I was confused but then it hit me the word “mother tongue” is like in some cases like the native way of how people speak. For example in the carribean some people would say the way how we speak is broken English but to us it’s our “ mother tongue”. In the passage it states “She reads the Forbes report, listens to Wall Street Week, converses daily with her stockbroker, reads all of Shirly MacLaine’s books with ease — all kinds of things I can’t begin to understand. Yet some of my friends tell me they understand 50% of what my mother says. Some say they understand 80 to 90%. Some say they understand none of it , as if she were speaking pure Chinese. But to me, my mother’s English is perfectly clear, perfectly natural. It’s my mother tongue” (Paragraph 6 lines 2-6) This quotes shows that in some case people will understand it unlike others.
September 6, 2020 at 9:54 pm
Josiah, Yes! I love the questions that you raise in the beginning of your response. I also love the personal connection that you make to the piece. We are going to dig into the question of what the term “mother tongue” means. And I really like when you said “For example in the carribean some people would say the way how we speak is broken English but to us it’s our “ mother tongue”.” I would love for your to discuss it further with us in class during our discussion of the text! Thanks!
September 6, 2020 at 10:43 pm
Amy Tan and her mother faced many obstacles because they had learned how to speak English in different ways, although her mother’s limitations of her English caused them to go through predicaments, Tan refers to this familiar way of communicating simple. During her childhood she often felt uncomfortable because of her mother’s “broken” English and belittled what she had to say, however, she eventually realized that her mother’s tongue “was the language that helped shape the way I saw things, expressed things, made sense of the world.” (Tan 6) I think Tan wrote this article to express her experience growing up with a parent that was from another country, and how even the way they learned how to speak affected them and the way they thought. She wants readers, specifically those with immigrant parents/families, to view them from a different perspective, not be ashamed of them, instead appreciate them and give them a voice in order for them to express their intent, passion, and imagery. My parents’ first language is Spanish, and since they’ve migrated to the United States they’ve had to learn English. When we talk it is usually a mix of both languages, they prefer that I speak in English so that they also practice how to respond. Whereas when I’m talking to my friend I’m much more informal, but sometimes we still incorporate Spanish into our conversations. My way of speaking depends on who’s listening, and what I am trying to express, although it’s more refined in professional settings, while casual with people who I’m close with.
September 6, 2020 at 10:48 pm
Claudia, Yes! I love how you raise the important issue of how children often view their immigrant parents when they hear them speak English and I love also how you connect it to a powerful personal story. Thank you! Finally, I love how you bring up the different forms of English that you use over the course of the day! I would love for you to discuss one of these great points next week in class! Thanks!
September 9, 2020 at 9:54 am
I very much agree with you Claudia , Amy Tans mothers tounge has made her come to a realization and inspired her to see the world in a whole other way and understand this was her mothers way of expressing herself . It made sense to her mom when speaking in how she saw as english , but Amy saw it in another negative way in that she had to translate often for her mom . I also think that Amy tan wrote this article to share how she grew in a way and learned to appreciate her mom and what was ” english ” to her . It is true alot of people are raised in households by immigrant parents who have broken english . We can often feel ashamed or get fustrated by their lack of knowledge and when we are asked to often translate because they can be clueless. But as you said we should appreciate them and give them a voice to show their feelings , and way of thinking , it is truly not their fault in having no knowledge in speaking english in their way . Many parents intend to atleast try and express themselves with their broken english , we can help them and teach them basics to expand their knowledge little by little , it can make a big impact in the long run. We are their biggest inspiraton at the end of the day and they look up to us .
September 7, 2020 at 3:21 pm
In this writing “Mother Tongue” by Amy Tan she expresses her feelings about the “different Englishes” she knows based on her mom and her being a writer. To Amy it was something regular speaking and writing perfect English but she realized that when she spoke to her mom the level of professionalism decreased “the kind of English I have never used with her”. As to why Amy used the term “mother tongue” I feel like it was to show the reader that English wasn’t her mom’s first language but they managed to survive and she provided us with an example “When I was fifteen, she used to have me call people on the phone to pretend I was she” and as a reader I can relate to this because just like Amy’s mom my parents speak “broken” English. Her perspective on her mother English as a child was to be ashamed because her mom English was taken as a joke to others but as she grew other she understood that it was nothing wrong “my mother’s English is perfectly clear, perfectly natural. It’s my mother tongue. Her language, as I hear it, is vivid, direct, full of observation and imagery. That was the language that helped shape the way I saw things, expressed things, made sense of the world”. I feel like Amy Tan wrote this article to the people that not speaking perfect English is a crime so that they can understand that speaking broken English doesn’t make less of a person and she also wrote this for people like me that can relate to her dealing with some of her mom problems. To me there are two different ways I speak, there is the professional and the regular way. For example when I speak to a professor I might say “ Good morning professor- how you doing” and when it comes to my friends I might say “what’s good” so the way you speak it changes based on the level of professionalism.
September 9, 2020 at 9:38 am
Joscar, I love how you describe Amy Tan’s relationship with English, her mother tongue and her mom. You express so well how we all change the way we speak depending on who we are speaking with, we are going to talk a lot more about this over the next few weeks! I also love how you explain who you think she is writing this piece for. I would love it if you could speak more about her intended audience in class today! Thanks!
September 8, 2020 at 11:50 am
Amy tan expresses her love a of language throughout the passage. She also expresses her childhood thoughts of her mother who spoke a broken form of english. As someone who also has immigrant parents i can relate to Amys use of “Englishes” . My parents can communicate well but their English is very broken especially when it come to pronunciation . I find my self almost matching their broken English when i speak to them but outside of my house i speak a more formal form of English. Throughout Amys childhood she found herself somewhat ashamed of her mothers broken English. I too went through these feelings with my parents who have a string accent. It was too a point where i would talk for my parents at stores or when getting food because often times the worker would have trouble understanding my parents. When Amy quotes the “Mothers Tongue ” i believe she is referring to the cultural aspect to her mothers speaking . Since her mother wasn’t raised in a setting where English is forced upon you(unlike Amy) her mother takes her culture and mixes it within her day to day English. For me growing up in the most diverse cities in the world i experienced a lot of different forms of English. From common slang I use amongst friends to standard English to different types of Broken Englishes based on culture , i see where Amys opinion may have changed. These different Englishes give people definition and character , it makes them who they are. I believe Amy went through the same realization with her mother and found some form of appreciation for her “Mothers Tongue”. I think the big picture behind this passage is that all forms of writing and English are special. Special to the point where we don’t speak to everyone the same. I believe the way you speak to someone expresses the bond you have with them. Now that my parent have been here for a while they also developed a standard English but they will always speak to me in their broken form . I think that’s due to the raw bond that we have where we can be our true selves but amongst my friends you’d see me speak in shorter phrases using a lot of slang we developed as friends. I too would use the term “englishes” because there are so many ways of speaking the language that it really jus depends on who im talking to , the point i’m trying to make and the feelings i want to express.
September 9, 2020 at 9:48 am
Dear Jacob, I absolutely love your description of the many Englishes that we speak and in particular when you wrote: “For me growing up in the most diverse cities in the world i experienced a lot of different forms of English. From common slang I use amongst friends to standard English to different types of Broken Englishes based on culture , i see where Amys opinion may have changed. These different Englishes give people definition and character , it makes them who they are.” I would love for you to discuss this further in class today! I also really like how you connect the story to your personal experience. Thanks!
September 8, 2020 at 7:11 pm
Amy Tan is a writer who speaks about all the different types of English that she uses every day. Amy Tan writes, “Recently, I was made keenly aware of the different Englishes I do use.” She explains that when her mother is in the room she feels like she is speaking different English than when she is not in the room. This means that even if she is telling the same story if the audience consists of a certain group of people it will be told differently if a different group was being told the story. Amy uses the term “Mother tongue” as a form of symbolism to describe how her mother has her unique language to speak with. When she was a child, Amy felt uncomfortable because she and her mother had learned to speak English in different ways causing them to basically speak 2 different versions of the language. She eventually realized that her mother’s tongue was the language that helped shape the way she saw things, expressed things, and how she made sense of the world. I think Amy wrote this article to show that language can have multiple different perspectives in life and as a writer, you see them clearly. Being Latino raised, I’ve been through basically the same thing Amy has. I used to always live with my aunts and most of them couldn’t speak English. Sadly I wasn’t too good at speaking Spanish. So when I spoke English to them I had to speak a more slow simplified English so they could understand me. My mother on the other hand speaks fluent English. So when I,m around her I speak east and quiet, But when I’m hanging at my friend’s house I speak a lot more freely and louder. The way I speak does change depending on my audience because I like to give off a good image of myself as a person. So if I’m around a bunch of adults I speak formal and correctly buy its the opposite with friends. I wouldn’t be loud around adults because then they’ll think I’m obnoxious, but it’s normal for my friends.
September 9, 2020 at 9:56 am
Dear Isaiah, I love how you describe the different Englishes that Amy Tan and her mom use and also connect it to your experience. I would love it if you would discuss this more in class today!
September 9, 2020 at 10:31 pm
Amy Tan describes the different englishes as different languages. She describes the proper english as sometimes or most of the times a universal language. She then proceeds to talk about the “broken” down english she was raised with that was spoken by her mother. Explaining to readers how broken down her mother’s english is and how some people can’t understand it putting the mother at a disadvantage in life. Tan uses “mother tongue” in the personal essay to describe the way she understands her mother even when others can’t. As a child Amy despised and was embarrassed by her mother’s language. As she gets older she understand the importance of her helping her mother with her speech with others since they take advantage of her. the fact that she had to handle things for her mom was a turning point of acceptance as she realizes that people such as staff from the hospital are giving her poor treatment. Tan wrote this article to inform those who don’t know that things like this goes on in the world, and to appeal to those who can relate. Which it is relatable, the slang my husband uses when he speaks bothers me so much that I find myself grammatically correcting him habitually. He is Hispanic and was born in America so the reason why he speaks so horribly is beyond me. He has a really hard time articulating himself and so that’s where the bad sentences come from. Although I’m not perfect i speak proper english, not all the time but most of the time and his “language” erkkkkkkksssss meeeeeee.
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Amy Tan’s Story “Mother Tongue” Essay (Critical Writing)
A large number of Americans now speak English as a first language but what becomes rare is the fact that it is very difficult to find two people who speak exactly the same English. It is this argument that is made by Amy Tan in her story Mother Tongue.
Amy is a first-generation Asian American who migrated to Oakland from China. She became a famous writer in Oakland and in this story, she narrates her experiences about the English she uses and about how the people around her influenced the way she conversed. At home, she spoke with her mother in broken and uneven English so that she understood in view of her faint knowledge of the language. In speaking with people while she worked or with whom she dealt professionally, she used clear and grammatically correct English.
Amy’s mother dreamt of coming to America with her daughter in order to get away from poverty and to provide a better quality of life for her. Amy Tan became a writer and in Mother Tongue, she describes her relationship with her ancestry and traditions. For her English as a language becomes a creative tool and she shares how she was affected by the imperfect English of her mother. The story becomes very consequential and universal since it is not merely about the language itself; it also delves into the relationships with parents and about social and ethnic influences. One is bound to ponder about the consequences of leaving his or her country and then living in a new country. The questions and issues that arise pertaining to maintaining one’s identity and ancestral roots.
In writing about the limited knowledge that her mother has of English, Amy Tan is able to show how this lack of knowledge is perceived by others around her and how it impacted her while she was growing. Her audience is primarily her mother who has been reading her writings. But she also addresses a broader audience in terms of the entire generation of Americans who have immigrant parents. This is so because she wants to highlight the several problems faced by such children daily.
She has attempted to make people aware of the struggles faced by emigrants. In being inadequately equipped in regard to the command of the English language, they are not always viewed seriously. They are either ignored or people intentionally pretend as if they have not understood them. Amy Tan considers that it is alright to speak different kinds of English with different people which depends on the kind of person one is speaking to; whether it is a teacher, instructor, friend or a family member.
The story relates to coping with change and involving oneself in the balancing act. Amy Tan emphasizes the role of the generation gap and how difficult it becomes at times in avoiding having a complex in regard to the parents’ inability to keep up with the status that one expects from them in maintaining his or her professional image. Surely, all such meanings could apply to any of us without necessarily experiencing them upon leaving one’s home country.
Amy Tan has used rhetorical appeals, logos, ethos, and pathos in the story in attempts to appeal to the readers and to explain her messages by using emotion and logic. She explains that in growing professionally a person’s way of life is bound to change and there is a tendency to see the parent’s house as not meeting his or her expectations. Although the same language is spoken by all at home, there appears to be something lacking in terms of keeping up with the status that one reaches after having become professionally successful.
The story is ultimately about losing a lot and returning home, in some ways after a long gap, and then feeling proud again about what a person is and what his heritage is. While she was a child Amy Tan would feel embarrassed about her mother being unable to express herself clearly. She felt bad when children would say that her mother’s English is broken, “as if it were damaged and needed to be fixed” (Amy Tan, 2009).
She would believe people at that time when they said that “her English reflected the quality of what she had to say” (Amy Tan, 2009). She came to believe about her mother that she was wrong because she would express very imperfectly all that she wanted to say, which made her believe that something was lacking in her. Her mother taught her with different perspectives as compared to the way other children were taught, which was the reason why she did not fare well in achievement tests. Amy Tan grew up with the belief system that Asian students could not make a profession out of the English language and that they were best suited in professions such as accounting and engineering.
Only after she grows up does she realize the richness that lay in the different thought processes that she was exposed to. Since she “happens to be rebellious in nature and enjoy the challenge of disproving assumptions” (Amy Tan, 2009), she started to concentrate on making a career in English and began to write in the language. It was at this time that she realized the importance of the heritage she inherited from her mother, which made it possible for her to use different aspects of the language. After mastering the language, she reminisces about her mother, “I wanted to capture what language ability tests can never reveal: her intent, her passion, her imagery, the rhythms of her speech, and the nature of her thoughts” (Amy Tan, 2009).
She realized the richness she got from her mother and had no qualms about making her the first reader and critic of her writing work. Indeed, it was a remarkable achievement for her which is evident from what she wrote: “I knew I had succeeded where it counted when my mother finished reading my book and gave me her verdict: so easy to read” (Amy Tan, 2009). From Amy Tan’s story, one does realize that each one of us has had similar experiences some time in life. We all have the hidden talent and in revealing the same we need to be away from the family, or more specifically to be separated from our heritage to realize and understand our true potential and capabilities.
Amy Tan, Mother Tongue. Web.
David Guy, Wheel of Fortune, 2003, The Washington Post.
- Chicago (A-D)
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IvyPanda. (2021, November 16). Amy Tan’s Story “Mother Tongue”. https://ivypanda.com/essays/amy-tans-story-mother-tongue/
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Amy Tan’s Mother Tongue: Summary
Short summary of mother tongue.
In Amy Tan’s ‘ Mother tongue ’, we are taken through matters of linguistics as we join Tan in her description of ‘broken English’; this she further compares to the standards English. She is precise in her quest yet finds time to ask and question what is appropriate and considered as proper grammar and English. To her good grammar and perfect English does not come or stands as a measure of intelligence. In her book, she quoted sections where her mother had made a lot of grammatical errors. The errors and misused words made it confusing for other people to follow her train of thought. She urges that her mother has a good command of English that is not evident in the story. Tan has focuses on the realization of all existence concentrate on broken grammar as it relates to her family. Her mother regular dialogue with her stockbroker, family all the expression a reader got was that her mother was uneducated. According to Tan, her mother had a better understanding of English than what came before the reader’s minds.
The ‘’Mother Tongue’ reflects on how many people are misinformed thinking that English can be a measure of intelligence; focusing on tans claim , she openly lets the reader gauge her mother lack of good education. A Chinese woman who has a hard time joining one and two of the English language. Much different from how she wanted us to believe, Tans’ intentions were much different as her mother was not ignorant according to how Amy viewed her. Her mother limitation was nowhere as her conversations with the stockbroker were flawless.
Extended summary of Amy Tan’s Mother Tongue
The essay is primarily about the writer’s own rumination and judgment concerning how “damaged English” contrasted to Criterion English. Furthermore it pertained to her sense that language not only “accredits” individuals to take part as participants of a designated neighborhood, it is also a necessary key in allowing individuals to establish and specify the dimensions of their identification. Though a fan of language as well as an erudite enthusiast of language she is, she has actually never ever recognized this concept till she recognized that she has never shown up significant and rhetoric before her mother.
She once again consciously aware of the “kind” of language she made use of on day-to-day and also affection basis when she kept in mind that her husband did not have a tiniest reaction when she said a grammatically wrong phrase. Thinking about it, she understood it was due to the fact that for over twenty years cohabiting, that “wrong” kind of English has been used regularly in their conjugal life. As well as it came to her feeling the existence of a different type of language, the language of affection, the familial English.
To show this kind of family talk, Mrs. Tan priced quote a tale that her mom had actually told her. It was an extremely unimportant tale but the important things that worth checking out was her mother’s grammar. The priced estimate parts were full of grammatical mistakes and the message was rather complicated. Yet, her mom had much better command in English than all that was ostensibly showed in her tale. She might review extremely innovative and high degree documents without much problem. Nevertheless, several of Tan’s pals confessed that her mom language was not very thorough because the majority of them could just get 50% or much less what Tan’s mom was trying to say. However to the author’s, her mother tongues was as brilliant, graphical, and also detailed as ever as she confides that it was this language that she found the world.
Regardless of exactly how she appreciated her mother tongue as a tool that had actually allowed her to recognize the globe, she understood that it was a “broken English” though she was rather flustered about calling it “damaged” because she could find no other way to repair it or to cause its precision, and accuracy. She additionally interrupted by various other terms such as “restricted English” since she assumed it additionally implied the edge of the understanding of the audio speaker of other. Furthermore, she feel abash by her mommy English since her mommy’s imperfect English makes Tan feel like her reasoning is also faulty. As well as not only Tan, but many others never took her mother seriously since either they did not understand her or did not hear her.
Tan’s mom was likewise aware of the restrictions of her English. That’s why she made use of to have Tan to respond to call which resulted in bothersome as well as predicaments in which Tan had to yell as well as acting rudely at other individuals. Or when her mom was discouraged with the people at the medical facility for not offering her an apology for losing her CAT and she worsened the trouble with her damaged English until Tan came. Arm with her appropriate English, Tan helped speak her mama out of the scenario and also aid her to achieve what she desired
Tan additionally criticized her mama’s limiting English responsible for her limiting opportunities in life. She thought it was the factor for all her not-doing-so-well in Spoken ability and also responsible for her unwell efficiency in achievement tests. She concurred that the ever-changing nature of language exacerbated the situation as she can not see the reason as well as the “science” behind an English inquiry due to a restricting sight influenced by her mother’s “busted English.” This made great impact not only on Tan but additionally on others that grew up in a Broken-English speaking environment as she tried to explain why there are a lot more Asians-Americans in physical science class rather than literature and social science.
She started creating fiction in her impressive English in 1985. Yet, she altered her mind as well as made a decision to create a book concerning moms utilizing the language that she has been growing up with, her broken native tongue, in which she caught the language she and also her mother made use of to talk with each various other, the English language that is a verbatim translation from Chinese, the significance and the shade of her mommy’s internal language. She protected those points, points that will never ever before be mirrored by a language test. Albeit whatever the doubters may state concerning her work, Tan was satisfied to understand that she has actually won the heart of the viewers who she had targeted as her mother has given her a verdict, “So simple to read.”
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Role of Language in 'Mother Tongue' by Amy Tan
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Published: Feb 9, 2022
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Mother Tongue Essay in 100, 150, 200, 300, 400, & 500 Words
Table of Contents
Mother Tongue Essay in 100 Words
Mother tongue essay.
Mother tongue, also known as a native language, holds immense significance in a person’s life. It is the language in which individuals form their first thoughts, communicate with their parents, and embrace their cultural heritage. This descriptive essay explores the essence of the mother tongue and its impact on one’s identity and communication skills. The melodious tones, unique vocabulary, and rich cultural nuances of a mother tongue create an undeniable emotional connection. It unites individuals with their roots, allowing them to express their true selves. Moreover, mastering one’s mother tongue strengthens communication skills and facilitates a deeper understanding of one’s heritage. The power of the mother tongue lies in its ability to forge connections, preserve traditions, and cultivate a strong sense of identity.
Mother Tongue Essay in 150 Words
Mother tongue is a term used to describe a person’s first language, the language they learn from their parents and use to communicate with their family and community. It is a powerful tool that shapes one’s identity and provides a connection to their cultural heritage.
In my case, my mother tongue is English. It is the language I grew up speaking, reading, and writing. I have vivid memories of my mother patiently teaching me how to pronounce words and construct sentences. English has become second nature to me, enabling the effortless expression of my thoughts and emotions.
However, I recognize the importance of mother tongues from diverse linguistic backgrounds. Each language carries a rich history, unique expressions, and cultural nuances. It is through one’s mother tongue that traditions and values are passed down from generation to generation.
Mastering multiple languages can be an incredible asset, allowing individuals to navigate multicultural environments and build bridges between different communities. It is essential that we celebrate and preserve the beauty of mother tongues, as they are a fundamental part of our collective human experience.
Mother Tongue Essay in 200 Words
Mother tongue is the language that a person learns from their mother and uses as their primary means of communication. It is a language that is ingrained in one’s identity and has a deep connection to their cultural heritage.
For many individuals, their mother tongue is the language spoken in their home country. It represents their roots and serves as a reminder of their family’s history. The words and phrases shared in the mother tongue carry a sense of familiarity and comfort, linking people to their cultural community.
Beyond its personal significance, the mother tongue also plays a crucial role in shaping an individual’s cognitive development. Language is a tool for thinking, and when children learn their mother tongue, they acquire not only the ability to communicate but also a unique way of perceiving the world.
Despite its importance, the mother tongue can often be overshadowed by dominant languages in education and society. Therefore, it is crucial to recognize and celebrate the richness of various mother tongues, promoting them as valuable assets rather than obstacles to learning.
In conclusion, the mother tongue is more than just a language; it is a representation of one’s cultural heritage, personal identity, and cognitive capabilities. Embracing and preserving mother tongues is essential for fostering diversity and understanding in our globalized world.
Mother Tongue Essay in 300 Words
The term “mother tongue” encompasses the language we acquire naturally from our parents and use to communicate with our family and community. For many of us, it is the first language we learn, shaping both our experiences and identities. Our mother tongue is not merely a mode of communication; it encapsulates our cultural heritage, traditions, and memories.
Being fluent in our mother tongue allows us to effortlessly express our thoughts and emotions. It is the language in which we first learn to articulate ourselves and formulate our ideas. The nuances, idioms, and expressions embedded in our mother tongue provide a deeper level of understanding about our cultural heritage, values, and beliefs.
Moreover, our mother tongue serves as a bridge connecting us with our familial roots. It connects us to our grandparents, parents, and ancestors who passed down their knowledge, wisdom, and stories in this language through generations. Through our mother tongue, we gain a sense of belonging and a stronger connection to our family and community.
Furthermore, our mother tongue enables us to comprehend and appreciate literature, art, and music originating from our culture. It is often in our mother tongue that we find poetry, proverbs, and songs that touch our hearts and resonate with our deepest emotions.
In conclusion, our mother tongue is an integral part of our identity, history, and heritage. It provides a means of communication, a source of cultural understanding, and a connection to our past. Preserving and nurturing our mother tongue is essential, as it keeps our traditions alive and ensures the transmission of knowledge and wisdom from one generation to the next.
Mother Tongue Essay in 400 Words
Mother tongue: a beautiful tapestry of words.
The concept of a mother tongue is, in many ways, like a vibrant tapestry, intricately woven over generations, representing our cultural heritage and identity. It is the language we first learn from our mothers, the language that nurtures our thoughts, and enables us to communicate our deepest emotions. In this descriptive essay, we will explore the power and beauty of the mother tongue, and how it shapes our understanding of the world around us.
A mother tongue is far more than just a means of communication. It is a rich reservoir of history and tradition, encapsulating the essence of a community’s collective experiences. Each language carries within it a unique cultural perspective, offering insights into lifestyle, values, and beliefs. For instance, in Chinese, the mother tongue of my ancestors, the concept of “Ren” emphasizes kindness and compassion, guiding individuals to foster harmonious relationships. Such nuanced cultural nuances are embedded deep within the mother tongue, reflecting the rich tapestry of human experiences.
Furthermore, the mother tongue serves as a conduit for familial bonds and traditions. It connects generations, transferring wisdom and knowledge from one to another. I recall sitting at my grandmother’s feet, listening to her eloquently narrate tales of our family’s history, dreams, and struggles, all in our native language. Through the mother tongue, these stories took on a life of their own, revealing a profound connection to our roots, and cultivating a strong sense of belonging.
Additionally, the mother tongue showcases the linguistic versatility and complexity of our world. Each language has its own rhythm, vocabulary, and idiomatic expressions. From the click sounds of the Xhosa language to the melodic cadence of Italian, every tongue weaves a distinct melody. The mother tongue captures the essence of a culture, expressing the joys, sorrows, and peculiarities of life in a way that transcends mere words. It evokes emotions that cannot be completely captured by another language, rendering each personal experience that much more vivid.
However, the mother tongue is not just a relic of the past. In an increasingly globalized world, it evolves and adapts, reflecting the changing times and embracing modern aspects. It assimilates new words, cultural influences, and concepts, forging a transition from traditional to contemporary. This amalgam of old and new breathes life into the language, enabling future generations to carry forward the torch of cultural heritage.
In conclusion, the mother tongue is a treasure trove of emotion, heritage, and identity. It conveys not only words but also the essence of a community’s values and traditions. It binds generations together and provides a unique lens through which to view the world. As individuals, we must recognize the importance of preserving and cherishing our mother tongues, for they are an integral part of our identities and allow us to weave together the colorful tapestry of human existence.
Mother Tongue Essay in 540 Words
Language is a fundamental aspect of human communication, acting as a medium through which we express our thoughts, emotions, ideas, and beliefs. It shapes our perspectives, influences our interactions, and forms the very foundation of our identities. In the grand tapestry of languages spoken across the globe, the concept of “mother tongue” holds a special place. This essay aims to explore the essence of the mother tongue, its significance in our lives, and its impact on our understanding of the world.
The mother tongue, also known as the first language or native language, refers to the language a person acquires naturally from birth or early childhood. It is the language spoken by their parents, family, and community, shaping their early memories and shaping their understanding of reality. For the majority of people, the mother tongue is synonymous with the language of their country or region. However, in multicultural societies, individuals may have multiple mother tongues due to their diverse linguistic backgrounds.
One of the most compelling aspects of the mother tongue lies in its ability to connect us to our roots and cultural heritage. It serves as a vessel that carries the vibrant traditions, customs, and folklore of our ancestors. Through our mother tongue, we gain access to the rich tapestry of our cultural identity, deepening our understanding of our own history and fostering a sense of belonging.
Moreover, proficiency and fluency in one’s mother tongue are instrumental in building strong interpersonal and familial relationships. The mother tongue enables individuals to express their thoughts and emotions with nuanced precision, fostering closer connections with their loved ones. It provides a sense of comfort and familiarity, enabling individuals to communicate freely without fear of misinterpretation or misunderstanding.
Conversely, the loss or neglect of one’s mother tongue can lead to a profound sense of disconnection and an identity crisis. Many individuals living in culturally diverse societies face the challenge of maintaining their mother tongue amidst the pressures to adopt the dominant language. As a consequence, a sense of alienation can arise, as one is unable to fully express their authentic self or connect deeply with their cultural heritage.
Furthermore, the mother tongue intertwines language and thought, shaping our cognitive processes, reasoning capabilities, and decision-making skills. A study by linguist Benjamin Lee Whorf proposed that language influences how we perceive and categorize the world around us. This theory, known as linguistic relativity or the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, suggests that different languages provide unique perspectives on reality, forcing speakers to perceive and conceptualize the world in distinct ways. Thus, the mother tongue not only impacts our personal lives but also molds our collective understanding of the world.
In conclusion, the mother tongue holds immense significance in our lives, serving as the cradle of our cultural identity and shaping our perception of the world. It connects us to our ancestral traditions, strengthens familial bonds, and fosters a sense of belonging. The mother tongue is not just a means of communication; it is a gateway to our roots, enabling us to embrace diversity, preserve our heritage, and forge deeper connections with those around us. Let us celebrate the beauty and power of our mother tongues, for they are the languages of the heart and soul.
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After we divorced, my ex and I decided to try 'nesting.' Our kids live in the family home, and we take turns staying with them.
- When my ex and I decided to divorce, we worried about how the transition would affect our girls.
- Nesting was the solution; we alternate staying with our kids, who live in the family home.
- We learned that communication is the key to making it work.
When my husband and I realized our marriage was over a few years ago, we were racked with guilt over how it would affect our two girls. They're the light of our lives. We may have already been a family before we had them, but they're the reason we'll always be a family, even if we're no longer a couple. When we started discussing how to separate , we agreed that all our choices should minimize any disruption to them.
By the ages of 7 and 9, our girls had already moved countries three and four times, respectively. Transitions were relatively easy when they were little, but our move from Malaysia to Mexico as they approached tweendom took a much harder toll on them. We promised them we'd stay in one place until they both graduated from high school. Moving my mother from the US to a small house near us in Mexico solidified that promise.
We both wanted custody but weren't sure how to navigate it
The issues to untangle in divorce felt interminable: custody, money, work, housing, schools, visas. The past 13 years of my life have been focused on caring for and educating our girls; I put my career on pause years ago to embrace the role of supportive spouse and homeschooling mom. Luckily, both girls expressed a desire to integrate into regular schools. Their dad had worked tirelessly and didn't want to lose a close connection to them. So when it came to custody, we agreed to a 50-50 split.
An even split seemed like the fair choice but left us wondering how we'd finance two houses that would be used only part of the time. We certainly couldn't afford to double everything, and we felt confident the constant changing would take a toll on at least one of the girls, if not both.
I dreaded the chaos I foresaw. Then a friend suggested nesting , which is when kids remain in the "family" home while the parents swap places.
We decided to give nesting a try
We knew nesting was the answer for us. Our kids would remain in the home we'd shared as a family so they could have the same rooms, the same comforts, and the same routines.
This way they wouldn't have to adjust to sleeping in a new place each week when we swapped custody , and they wouldn't pine for things like a favorite bedroom at Mom's house or a nicer TV at Dad's. We wouldn't have to worry about them packing everything up each time they left or leaving things they'd need behind. Nesting meant they'd always feel at home.
Nesting was a logical solution that saved me money
The girls' father rented a small place nearby, while I chose to live with my mother when I wasn't with the kids. This allowed me to save up an emergency fund and build a flexible income while living in Mexico .
While some things about my living situation weren't ideal, it was financially realistic. It worked well for my mother, too. She welcomed spending more time with me, and being near her helped me catch some worrisome health changes, such as severe short-term memory loss; our living arrangement allowed me to get her a diagnosis and become her part-time caretaker.
It took a little over a year for my ex and I to officially separate from when we first acknowledged our marriage was over. During that time, we set some ground rules. We discussed big questions, like whether we'd allow people we might date into the family home (no) and whether we'd celebrate holidays as a family (yes).
We set up a weekly video call with an agenda to organize everything
We agreed to check in and reach consensus on decisions about sleepovers or changes to after-school activities, while regular hangouts and outings would be up to the parent in charge at the time. We initially agreed to email each other with summary notes and details like last meals before the switchover. At the time, we thought that would be sufficient.
After the first swap, we learned a short email wasn't enough, especially to track any ongoing issues. We decided to do a weekly video call with a shared Google Doc agenda to help organize and communicate about things such as holiday decisions — like cooking duties for Thanksgiving and our Christmas gift budget — and chores like cleaning the dog's ears and taking out the recycling.
Nesting requires strong communication and flexibility
Within a few months, the 50-50 split started to feel untenable for my ex, who traveled often for his work as a regional director for a large hospitality firm. This was our first important lesson. We'd need to be flexible and support each other to care for our family while trying to avoid built-up resentment.
I agreed to spend an extra day a week at the house. Over the next eight months we made additional adjustments. We discussed how to split household chores and set our expectations regarding our kids' help around the house. Some of our decisions were more contentious than others, but keeping our focus on our girls helped us navigate the rough waters.
As we approach our two-year nesting anniversary, we've learned that communication is key to making it work. Having resolved most of the initial questions and unexpected issues, we've replaced our weekly video calls with emails and texts as things arise. Our kids let us know which big holidays they want to celebrate together as a family and which they'd prefer to split between parents. When they eventually start dating, I imagine there will be a flurry of emails and chats about that, too.
Nesting entails a lot of planning and discussion, flexibility, communication, and a willingness to embrace empathy and compromise. But I wouldn't have it any other way.