Mother Tongue by Amy Tan

In this post we will go over the widely read essay ‘Mother Tongue‘ by Amy Tan.

About Amy Tan

Amy Tan was born in 1952 in Oakland, California. She is an American novelist, memoirist, and essayist best known for her 1985 novel The Joy Luck Club. Tan and her mother moved to Switzerland in 1966 after her father and brother died of brain tumours. Tan attended high school in Switzerland. She earned a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in linguistics from San Jose State University in San Jose, California. Tan worked as a language development consultant and freelance writer for corporations after completing her studies, before producing The Joy Luck Club, which delves into the delicate relationship between Chinese women and their Chinese American daughters. Tan investigates how her mother, a natural Chinese speaker, has influenced her connection with the English language in her essay “Mother Tongue.”

Summary of Mother Tongue

Mother Tongue is a brilliant essay by Amy Tan. It was originally published in The Threepenny Review in 1990 as Under Western Eyes. The essay explores the linguistic challenges confronting first and second-generation Chinese settlers in the United States. It is based on Tan’s personal experiences: Cultural & Linguistic Clashes. At home, she spoke broken English; in public, she spoke standard English. Thus, the essay represents the life of a young lady who is juggling multiple identities.

Amy Tan’s ‘Mother Tongue’ takes us through linguistics as we join Tan in her depiction of ‘broken English,’ which she compares to the standards of English. She is precise in her search, but she also takes the time to inquire and ask what is permissible and regarded proper language and English. Good grammar and excellent English do not arrive or stand as a measure of intelligence in her eyes. She quoted passages of her mother’s work in which she found numerous grammatical faults. The grammatical flaws and misused terminology made it difficult for others to follow her train of thought. She insists that her mother has a strong command of the English language, which is not clear in the account. Tan has concentrated on the reality of all existence, with a particular emphasis on broken grammar as it relates to her family. Her mother’s daily chat with her stockbroker, relatives all gave the impression that her mother was illiterate. Tan claims that her mother understood English better than what the reader’s minds conjured up.

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The “Mother Tongue” reflects on how many people are mistaken and believe that English is a measure of intelligence; focusing on Tan’s claim, she openly allows the reader to judge her mother’s lack of high education. A Chinese woman who struggles to understand parts one and two of the English language. Tans’ motives were very different from what she wanted us to believe, as her mother was not ignorant in Amy’s opinion. Her mother’s limitations were nowhere to be found, as her interactions with the stockbroker were immaculate.

Amy Tan’s Mother Tongue: An Extensive Synopsis

The essay is mostly on the writer’s own reflection and assessment of how “damaged English” compares to Criterion English. Furthermore, it related to her belief that language not only “accredits” persons to participate as members of a specified community, but it is also an essential key in allowing individuals to establish and describe the dimensions of their identity. Despite the fact that she is a lover of words and an intellectual lover of language, she had never recognised this concept until she realised she had never ever shown up substantial and rhetorical in front of her mother.

She became consciously aware of the “kind” of language she used on a daily and affectionate basis when she remembered that her spouse did not have the slightest reaction when she stated a grammatically incorrect phrase. Thinking about it, she realised it was because they had been cohabiting for over twenty years and had been using the “wrong” form of English regularly. In addition, she felt the presence of a distinct form of language, the language of attachment, familial English.

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Mrs Tan used a storey told to her by her mother to illustrate this type of family discourse. It was a completely insignificant storey, but it was worth checking out her mother’s grammar. The pricing estimate sections were riddled with grammatical errors, and the content was fairly confusing. Nonetheless, her mother’s mastery of English was far superior to what was apparently demonstrated in her storey. She could be able to review incredibly inventive and high-level documents with ease. Nonetheless, several of Tan’s friends admitted that her mother tongue was not very thorough, as the bulk of them could only understand half of what Tan’s mother was attempting to say. However, the author’s mother tongue was as brilliant, pictorial, and detailed as ever, and she admits that it was via this language that she discovered the world.

Regardless of how much she valued her mother tongue as a tool that enabled her to identify the world, she recognised that it was a “broken English,” though she was hesitant to term it “damaged” since she could not think of any other way to repair it or cause its precision and correctness. She was also interrupted by many other expressions, such as “restricted English,” because she assumed it also reflected the limit of the audio speaker’s understanding of the other. Furthermore, she feels embarrassed by her mother’s English because her mother’s terrible English makes Tan believe that her logic is flawed as well. Not just Tan, but many others, did not take her mother seriously because they either did not understand her or did not hear her.

Tan’s mother was also conscious of the limitations imposed by her English. That is why she used to have Tan react to calls, which resulted in annoyance as well as situations in which Tan had to rant as well as act harshly towards other people. Or when her mother was frustrated with the medical staff for not offering her an apology for losing her CAT, and she exacerbated the situation with her shaky English until Tan arrived. Tan, armed with suitable English, assisted her mama in getting out of the situation and achieving what she desired.

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Tan also blamed her mother’s limited English for her own limited possibilities in life. She believed that was the cause of her poor performance in Spoken ability as well as her poor performance in accomplishment tests. She agreed that the ever-changing nature of language compounded the dilemma, as she is unable to grasp the reason as well as the “science” behind an English inquiry owing to a limited vision impacted by her mother’s “busted English.” This had a significant impact not just on Tan, but also on others who grew up in a Broken-English speaking community, as she attempted to explain why there are more Asian-Americans in physical science classes than in literary and social science.

In 1985, she began writing fiction in her remarkable English. However, she changed her mind and decided to write a book about moms in the language she grew up with, her broken native language, in which she captured the language she and her mother used to speak with each other, the English language that is a verbatim translation from Chinese, the significance and also the colour of her mommy’s internal language. She guarded those points, points that will never be duplicated by a language exam. Regardless of what her detractors say about her work, Tan is relieved to know that she has won the hearts of the viewers she had targeted, as her mother has given her the verdict, “So simple to read.”

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