Mother Tongue by Amy Tan

Subject: 📚 Literature
Type: Analytical Essay
Pages: 6
Word count: 1455
Topics: 📗 Book, 🗽 American Culture
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Mother tongue, written by Amy Tan provides a description of the forms of English languages adapted by different individuals during their migration to the United States of America and their adjustment to the American culture. The piece has a strong depiction of the Asian American struggles through the adaptation of the English language. From the essay, we learn about the initial encounters of Amy as a young girl. Her life was widely dependant of her knowledge in different languages that constituted of English. In the first part of the book, there is a clear explanation about her learning and use of the language. We get a clear picture about her school life from the second part along with the liabilities she experienced as a due to her mother’s inability to speak correct English.

English as a second lingo and a school subject to her made her life in school a living hell. Nonetheless, through the same problems and technicalities, she managed to grasp the language with immense vigor. In fact, her success in the latter, depicted by her writing capabilities, was a source of surprise both to her family and to friends. Her career in writing was geared by the unknown ability that she came to realize in herself years later. Her struggles in grasping correct English for communication with her peers synchronized with the mastery of broken English for easier communication with her mother enabled the sharing and practice of many different cultures, which gave an ample source to writing materials. Amy came to discover how rich she was in mastering different languages. She was capable of communicating with very many different people: from the different types of English, to her mother tongue. This phenomenon came to her attention, when she inquired from her friends on their opinion about her mother’s mannerism of speaking English. The responses made her realize that it was not a mere normality, to grasp and use different languages effectively.

From this perspective, it became easier for Amy to adapt to any changes; blending into different languages with a passion. She knew it was her secret; one that she achieved through struggling and could now interact normally with everyone years later; regards to her childhood efforts. With reference to the latter, she was always good in all other subjects other than English. She recalls how her professor discovered her degree in brightness and emphasized on concentration to the subjects she could deliver best. This was in the context of having a strong base in education with a promising future. Contrary to her instincts, Amy never wanted to foster on what she could do. She had zeal and a strong notion on trying what was considered impossible.

She then reduced her concentration on latter subjects and focused on English, regardless of the pieces of advises from different entities. At one time, she almost gave up on the subject and even blamed her failure on the poor English her mother spoke. She never came to consensus with the fact behind, other children coming from strong English speaking families, while she came from a family characterized by pitiable English. As a child, English was an unexplained aspect of unfairness. Despite the fact that communication between her mum and the outside world was next to impossible, Amy never gave up. Instead, she listened and practiced quietly until she was sure of herself. In her mother’s case, she countered any problems by assisting different people in communicating with her. She even recalls the kind of difficulties she underwent in instances where they encountered influential people with a notion of taking advantage of her mother. Amy might have been an Asian American, but this aspect never countered her standing out in class. Through her efforts, she finally achieved her long-term quest, becoming a writer and a savior to her mother in the process.

Apparently, the author uses hidden language to point out aspects of cultural racism without signifying anger or clearly mentioning out the issue on language. Non-Americans usually have difficulties leading normal lives in America, as described by the author. Although most critics prove equality in America, original inhabitants always have a better life. The author’s choice of an immigrant as the victim in the story ensures the story acts as a spectacular revelation. The explanations provided by Amy prove that language greatly affects people’s lives. In my opinion, language has defined the person I am, with great influences on my lifestyle and value of life. Actually, language has encouraged my growth in life through offering different ideas and ways of handling life issues.

In relation to Amy and from my perspective, language is a strong source of impact in our lives. Language determines the culture one has to adapt and incorporate. Language defines us and has a consequent and ultimate effect on our decisions, choices and experiences. Just like in Amy’s case, language determines what we expect and how we react on happenings in our life. Today, many young people like me have to forego our mother tongue languages for foreign ones like English. My life is in a way related to Amy’s because I was raised in similar grounds where most of my neighbors were immigrants; faced with linguistics, academy and culture problems. I might not have immigrant parents, but I grew in a situation where there existed at least three languages, each with a different function. Most immigrant students lived with challenges based on language difficulties as well as literacy and culture.

For instance, while schooling in China it was evidently clear that minorities in schools were mostly the immigrants. This can be attributed to the immigrant student’s life ways and literacy as it was embedded in the cultural values and heritage. In my opinion, integration of two or more languages during learning does not require learning different grammar and languages. This was opinioned by the manner teachers in both my home ground schools and those in the United States ignored the differences between the languages. A Chinese student is able to understand English if only they employ how Chinese was formed in constructing English sentences, words and phrases. However, this aspect is not practiced in most schools resulting to difficulties in both understanding and expressing oneself.

English as a school subject was entirely applied within the school compound. Immediately we left school, it felt as though we were coming out of a prison like situation. One felt relief as we felt that evening sensation filled with, ‘freedom of speech’ through speaking our mother tongue after a long, tiresome day. Almost all of my classmates found English a very involving subject. Unlike Amy, most of us let nature take its course because we lack the guts to go back and try. However, a very strong aspect comes into question at this point. Many of us take failure in grasping English as a sign of low aptitude levels. This is not the case, because English is a second language to me but a first language to another. Being an international student but with my background in China, I have witnessed that Chinese students in America require larger numbers of facts as committed to memory when compared to that of the American students. As a mother tongue, these people have the allowance for an advantage unlike them that have to learn. In fact, I tend to believe that second language learners are very intelligent people. Those that speak broken English might not be a hundred percent capable of learning and perfectly incorporating English in their language system, but at least intelligence depicts in their trials.

Were strong English Americans in Amy’s story requested to communicate in Amy’s language, there would have raised a great catastrophe. So why should anyone despise her mother for trying to speak a foreign language, though not perfectly? This is in the context that the very same despisers have no clue whatsoever of any Asian languages. The same applies to me and to many others, that have to compromise their mother tongue languages for the sake of English. The assumption that English is everyone’s language or is a compulsory language should be eradicated. However, we might have to learn English for purposes of interaction in today’s world, but respect to mother languages should always prevail. Cultures that initially existed before the introduction of western cultures should be revived. Culture is a very rich aspect in life, one that has no cost in the event of extinction. Just as it took effort and devotion to develop western cultures, so did other cultures do in Africa or Asia.  Amy tried and succeeded, we may try to adapt on our side, but that does not call for shunning when the going gets tough.

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  1. Tan, Amy. “Mother Toungue.” alvarado, beth and barbara cully. Writing As Revision . San Francisco: Pearson Custom, 2011. 207-210.
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