Amy Tan's Mother Tongue Essay

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In Amy Tan’s essay, Mother Tongue, Tan discusses the different types of English she encountered throughout her life, ranging from her mother’s ‘broken’ English, to the sophisticated English she herself would use among her peers. Tan writes about the impact of these different Englishes and the effect they have on how others perceive each other, whether it be looking up to someone with an expansive vocabulary or looking down on someone who speaks English poorly or with a strong dialect. Tan starts out by discussing the first time she was made aware of the different Englishes, even ones she herself used subconsciously. She is giving a speech in a room, her words carefully wrought, her sentences laden with large words and grammatical feats. When she notices her mother in the room, a mother who speaks broken English, and with whom Tan realizes that she speaks broken English to, feels as though her elaborate speech is wrong, that it doesn’t fit well. When her tale transitions to the hardships her mother has gone through for her inability to speak ‘intelligent’ English, the main point of the essay is first made known. How do the different dialects and ‘Englishes’ used affect the way others perceive you and does their use gives and takes away intimacy and emotion. To come to this point, Tan relates to stories from her childhood, of a mother using her child to speak for her so that she isn’t judged, of a mother who is looked down upon despite her intelligence, just because she cannot speak English well. She goes on to say that her mother’s poor grip of English affects her too, limiting her skills in English classes, all the while teachers prompt her to transition her focus to maths and sciences. Tan, stubborn that she is, decides to major in English, though she quickly realizes that her showing off, her elaborate grammar and explosively unrecognizable vocabulary is

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