While she was receiving standard English education in school, she also mastered her family’s different “Englishes”, which were created by her mom, a native speaker of Chinese. Tan begins her essay with the disclaimer that she is “not a scholar” of the English language, despite the truth that she actually is, to tell that she is going to present “mother tongue” with her personal experiences. In fact, Tan’s opinions of non-standard English do cast doubt on those of linguists’. Tan has concerns about the kind of English her mother speaks because she noticed that the English she uses in public is totally different from the English she uses with her mom. Here, Tan provides a video of what her mother said during a recent conversation as an example of what “mother tongue” looks like.
Tan’s mother’s “broken” English was a contradiction because she could comprehend much more than what her English tended to show. Amy Tan stresses that her mom knows that her “broken” English limits her. When Tan was growing up, she had to call and pretend that she was her mother to get people to pay attention. Often Tan yelled at the person on the other side of the phone for being rude to her mother before. For example, Tan had to call her mother’s stockbroker and ask why he didn’t bother to send the check.
The second time she noticed one of her “Englishes” was when walking with her mother and husband, she said “not waste money that way” which for her is an intimate language used only by her family. Her mother’s “broken” English contradicts how much she actually understands, this reminds us that even though her mother’s English seem “broken” it does not reflect her intelligence. Even though her mother was categorized with limited ideas by the people she would to because of the way she spoke, Tan rejects the idea that her mother English is “limited” or “broken”. She emphasizes the fact that even her mother recognizes that her opportunities and interactions in life are limited by her English. When the author was young she used to have to call people on the phone and act as if she was her mother in order to get people to pay attention to her like when she had to yell at her mother’s stockbroker for not sending a check.
I can definitely relate to Tan’s essay because I too came from a bilingual home. Like Amy Tan, I have intelligent immigrant parents and I am their main avenue of communication with people who don’t understand them. I believe the main idea of Tan’s “Mother Tongue” is to stress that just because someone cannot speak the English language to perfection, that does not in any way make them less intelligent than someone who is born in this country and understands and speaks English fluently. However, what makes us different is that it is rare to find two people who speak the exact same English. Although Tan and I both helped our parents and came from non-traditional homes, Tan came from a Chinese family while I came from an Albanian family.
Mother Tongue In “Mother Tongue”, Amy Tan writes about discrimination through “broken English” compared to Standard English and how people who speak “broken English” are usually taken advantage of. In Tans essay she quotes her mother’s speech to demonstrate her mother’s “broken English”. The quoted parts were filled with grammatical mistakes and the text was quite confusing. Yet, according to Tan “You should know that my mother’s expressive command of English belittles how much she actually understands”. This reminds me of my childhood, because growing up I would have to constantly translate for my mother.
By that meaning, when Amy Tan was a kid, she saw how her mother had difficulties in the society because the lack of communication. Therefore, when she grew up, she learned English in the right and correct way and became a successful writer. This is similar to a time when I was in her situation, I was ashamed of my parents broken English wherever they go, I had to speak for them; their limited English reflected the quality of what they had to say. That is because they weren’t able to express their thoughts, the correct way and nobody was taking them seriously, it was because of their broken English language, they were not getting good services
Tan includes personal encounters with her mother and explains how one's speech may influence how people perceive and respond to them. The message Tan wishes to convey is that people should not judge one on their shortcomings to impact the way in which they perceive them. Tan understands that many people see her mother as a predominantly Chinese speaking woman with no talent for piecing together proper English sentences. Culturally speaking, Tan understands that people may not be able to overlook mishaps in language and that it is a problem immigrants face. Tan also compares an individualist society versus a collectivist one.
In “Mother Tongue,” Amy Tan uses different Englishes that include “broken” or “simple” English and formal and sophisticated English. Tan utilizes “broken” English when she speaks with her mother, and she describes it as her “language of intimacy, a different sort of English that relates to family talk, the language I grew up with.” She uses the more proper English in public and professional settings. For example, Tan communicates in a more formal English when she is discussing her writing and her book, The Joy Luck Club, to a large audience. When I hear someone speaking in “broken” English, I sometimes feel bad for them because it is difficult for them to convey their message to the person they are speaking with. I do not feel superior to the individual who is conversing in “broken” English because I cannot judge someone on the basis of how they talk in the English language.
Amy Chua brings up the terms “Western parents” and “Chinese mother” she explains the differences between the two. The “Western parents” tries to teach their children that learning should be fun, whereas the “Chinese mother” understands that nothing is fun until you are good at it. The “Western parents and the “Chinese mother” are compared to each other throughout the entire article. Chua tells an anecdote about one of her daughters Lulu trying to learn a piano piece. Chua kept on pushing her daughter even though Lulu was convinced that she physically was not able to do it.