Professor James Camporeale
8 October 2018
Mother Tongue is an essay written by Amy Tan from personal experience to outline the different versions of and reactions to the variation among languages depending on the racial background. This piece portrays themes of education, shame and living in two worlds. In this article, Amy Tan relates about her Chinese mother whose best English dialect was difficult for most people to understand. This caused great shame and discrimination whenever Tan’s mother had an interaction with the fluent English world and so with strong agreement, there is evident cultural racism and prejudice whenever Tan’s mother tries to interact with someone whose first, and maybe, only language is English.
The writer begins her article by introducing to her audience about the importance of language to her. It is so important that she terms it as her “tool” in her work. In Mother Tongue, Tan emphasizes the idea that we all speak different languages unconsciously and it was at the moment of her speech at The Joy Luck Club, when Tan realizes that she sounded significantly different. Despite giving tons of speeches like this before, she thought the only reason why it sounded “strange” was because of her mother’s presence. It is prevalent within Tan’s household to speak broken English and this has thus proven to be a challenge for Tan’s mother. The writer has realized that the loose version of English which is used among family members is what she has been familiar with, hence why she had not noticed that she was using improper English among her family members.
Amy Tan’s article Mother Tongue persuades us to think that language is a sign of how educated you are and this made readers think that Tan’s mother was an uneducated Chinese native who is unable to understand English. However, the writer later states that her mother is in fact very smart. She is actually well versed in proper English, as it is, she reads and “Forbes” and the “Wall Street Journal”.
Since Tan’s mother is unable to express herself when she encounters the outside world, she gets taken advantage of. Amy Tan claims that she would have to disguise as her mother on the phone and be forced to ask for information or even yell at people who were rude to her. One such incident was a call to her mother’s stockbroker who had failed to send Tan’s mother a check after cashing out her portfolio. The...