Amy Tan Mother Tongue

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Amy Tan explores the idea of variable language in her short essay Mother Tongue. Tan is the daughter of Chinese immigrants. She grows up watching her parents, especially her mother, struggle with learning the English language. While her mother does gain skill in speaking the English language, she never masters language in the sense that we expect of someone who lives in an English speaking country. As a child, Tan is embarrassed by her mother’s difficulty in language and eventually she sees growing up the child of an Asian immigrant home as the reason she struggled in school to excel in reading and writing. She comes to see the language barrier between parent and child as the reason other children of Asian immigrants struggle with language academically and as the reason why those children are seen to excel in math and science. Eventually Tan is successful in becoming an accomplished author. Her mother has great pride in her work, despite the barriers between the English her mother speaks and the proper English used by an author. It is in this separation of language that Tan comes to realize that there may not be one proper English. Tan begins her essay by referencing, “all the Englishes I grew up with” (Tan). It is such a strange comment, but the idea of more than one English language is a strange idea in itself. Anyone who has traveled abroad to the United Kingdom or Australia will quickly notice that the native people will use different phrasing to say things. A friend from England always says they are going to “ring you up” when they mean that they plan to call me on the phone. It is a strange phrase to someone in the US, but a person who grew up with this type of saying in a foreign English speaking country will always use this type of regional dialect. And the way people from the US say they will “call you” sounds strange to them. It is the same idea as

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