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Amy Tan, Mother Tongue (Essay Sample)

Amy Tan “Mother Tongue”

Language forms our identity because it defines who we are based on how we interact with people. Unfortunately, some people use language to gauge our levels of intelligence. Many people are discriminated based on how they express themselves, especially if they cannot speak English fluently. In an article titled “Mother Tongue” by Amy Tan, she talks about her experiences as an immigrant, highlighting how people who speak broken English are unconsciously categorized by those who speak English fluently.

Amy’s article shows how challenging it is to be raised by a parent who speaks limited English because one can easily face discrimination. Tan, being a fiction author, recalls the experiences that helped her identify different types of English. She also explores the role played by her mother in shaping her language that later even influenced her career choice.

Amy highlights several situations portraying how discrimination occurs when the other person cannot understand broken English. She quotes examples of broken English her family used to communicate. Having been raised by her mother, Amy realized how one’s perception of the world is based on the type of language taught at home. Tan noticed how people perceive others differently based on the language used.

The author was fascinated by language which became part of her daily experience as a writer. Tan keenly observed the different types of English in several instances like when giving a talk about her book and her mother was part of her audience; she realizes that she been using academic language from the book which is different from the language they used at home. She notices the different types of English when her mother says “not waste money that way”; this is an example of broken English she was used to at home. Her mother’s English differs from her general understanding of English.

Even though her mother spoke broken English, this did not reflect her level of intelligence; her mother was perceived to have limited ideas by people who interacted with her. When Amy was young, she acted like her mother for people to take her seriously. Her mother knew about stocks, meaning that she was intelligent to know how to invest. Amy recalls the time when her mother tried to inform the doctor that she had lost the CAT scan results. The doctor ignored her mother because he could not understand her English. The doctor only took the initiative to assist her mother after Amy talked to him using fluent English; the doctor apologized and solved the problem.

Tan noted with a concern that people do not take other people seriously because of their language. According to Tan, immigrant families are judged based on how well they speak English. She even thinks that her family language could have limited her from accessing several opportunities. Tan wondered why Asian students performed better in math tests than in language test. She further questions whether other Asian students felt discouraged from learning foreign languages and as a result, focus more on math and science. She also recalls having changed her major from pre-med to English to become a freelance writer. Even though her boss discouraged that she could not become a good writer, she later became one of the best fiction writers. Amy is happy to have followed her dreams instead of feeling intimidated by other people.

People will always be judgmental, according to Tan; many people think that speaking broken English means not being intelligent. At times people make mistakes when pronouncing certain words, this does not make them less intelligent or lack proper education. Having to deal with stockbrokers and other important clients made Tan realize how intelligent her mother is.

In her article, Tan points out that the language spoken among immigrant families plays an important role in shaping the language their children will adopt; this will greatly affect their children’s lives in future. Speaking a different language with her mother affected her normal conversations and almost limited her opportunities.

Amy’s article highlights how people who use English as a second language face prejudice; they have to find means to cope with several situations. Mrs. Tan was discriminated even by her neurologist who is supposed to be listening keenly to patient despite the language barrier. Amy reveals some of her language experiences and also provides readers with solutions to their language problems that limited her mother, and what she had to do for people to listen to her mothers’ pleas.

She proved how her mother encountered a different kind of attitude when she tried to communicate with other people. Tan was always there to mediate when the stockbroker delayed with her mothers’ cheque and when the CAT scan could not be traced. She was always there for her mother to mediate in all the situations to enable other people to understand what her mother was trying to convey. Amy provides many experiences immigrant families face where sometimes one has to become a spokesperson for other family members.

The idea that other people perceive those with limited English to be uneducated is a common phenomenon. Unconsciously, people categorize other by the way they speak English. Amy Tans’ Mother Tongue provides insights, telling readers not to be too judgmental. The article reminds us of the many times when we look down upon people because they cannot express their ideas due to their limited language skills.

The author informs readers to learn to respect people even if they cannot express themselves properly and avoid criticizing people who cannot speak English fluently. The article Mother Tongue inspires readers to try to be more helpful and encourage those who do not speak proper language instead of labeling them.

Through the article, readers are informed about the many challenges facing immigrants including being mistreated because of their limited language skills. It is assumed that migrants are uneducated; this is not true because Amy points out that Asian students excel in math and science as compared to English. All in all, Tan believes that limited English means limited opportunities, especially for immigrants.