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Mother Tongue Essay

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There are many bilingual and multicultural people in the world today. For many, the choices of which language they use, and how they use it, correspond to what social or cultural community they belong to. Amy Tan, a Chinese American novelist, portrays this well in her short essay "Mother Tongue." Tan grew up in two vastly different worlds, using different "Englishes." The first world, which consists of her close family, she speaks what we may call "broken" or "limited" English. The second world, which is her business and professional world, Tan speaks and writes perfect standard and academic English. Having to "shuttle" between these two communities with very different languages has had many different positive and negative effects on…show more content…

She realized that her "mother tongue" has become their "language of intimacy, a different sort of English that relates to family talk,..."(Tan 61) Her "mother tongue" is the English she uses while she is in her first world, her private world, which is a completely different cultural community.

As Tan was growing up, the speech she used in her family environment affected her results on various tests at school. Many other Asian Americans had this similar problem, and had teachers "who are steering them away from writing and into math and science, which is what happened to me(Tan)."(Tan 64) This is because Math has only one correct answer, whereas English was a "matter of opinion and personal experience."(Tan 63) As a result of this, Tan drove herself to disprove others assumptions and became an English major. She wrote in a way to prove her "mastery" over the English language. An example she gives is this line, edited from the final version of her book, "'That was my mental quandary in its nascent state.'"(Tan 65) This is the type of language she uses in her professional life. Her words are "filled with carefully wrought grammatical phrases...all the forms of standard English that (she) had learned in school and through books."(Tan 61) Without realizing it at first, Tan widened the gap between her professional community and her private family

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The main aim of the study is to point out of cultural racism that is present all over the world. Amy Tan, the author of the book Mother Tongue, wanted to use her writing skills and opportunity through this book to make readers realize how not being a native American, as she and her mother were not, can hamper how a person deals with day-to-day situations. The author also wanted to bring the new language she had come upon to the attention of her readers. The language brought her closer to her heritage and roots, and so she felt that this could aid those facing similar problems.

There are three participants in the story: Amy Tan, her mother, and a small audience. Amy Tan had been married for 20 years when she authored the book. Therefore, she might be in her 50s while her mother might be in her 70s. The two hail from Shanghai, China, and are immigrants in the United States. The economic status of the author and her mother was above par, and their mental status was stable. The small audience refers to a group of people that Amy was addressing before she realized the difference in her English among audiences.

The author of the novel envisioned that at the end of her writing, someone would appreciate her new language rendition and would recommend it to others. Indeed, this came to happen. In addition to many good comments from her readers and followers, her mother, the target reader, appreciated her work and put it in the best way that Amy welcomed: “so easy to read” (Tan 2005).

The reason behind becoming a writer was also due to the intense activities of Tan’s mother. She saw various actions of cultural racism as her mother was not able to communicate in English. She realized that people living in the United States as immigrants, such as Asian-Americans, among others, face many challenges due to their mother tongue. Some of these problems faced include difficulties in communication, which predisposes them to being taken for granted and treated with an inferiority complex. The author, in her book, explains how her mother had been mistreated owing to her “broken” English. It was very difficult to live and adjust with the US environment and with the people living in the surrounding area. Therefore, Tan decided to learn English so that she may be able to overcome the obstacles her mother had faced in her life. She had to do a lot of work not only learning a foreign language, but also sharpening her writing skills to be able to communicate clearly and conveniently through writing in English.

There were people in the United States of America who tried to stop her from learning advanced English due to her Chinese Background. However, eventually, she was quite able to reach her dream ensuring no cultural racism will be carried out with her for being not able to communicate clearly in the local language. As a writer, she wrote stories explaining her personal experiences and of others to demonstrate how cultural racism in terms of language incomprehension affects the minds of the foreign people living in the United States of America. For instance, Tan used the term “Broken Language” (2005) for describing the language of immigrant families. Communication problems do affect people’s day-to-day lives as it subjects others to low self-esteem, and other people take advantage of their misfortunes to profit. This problem is dominant in the lives of immigrants all over the world. To stop this and make life better anywhere in the world, Amy Tan suggests that a shift in the approach to English writing be made…

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