In Mother Tongue, Amy Tan explains three simultaneous aspects and types of Englishes, which she believes are commonly spoken or used in different cultures. She explains these Englishes to include the “simple English,” which she claims that she spoke to her mother; the “broken English,” which her mother used with her; the “Watered down English,” which represents her translation of her mother’s Chinese. The author also includes in her essay the English she imagines to be her mother’s translation of Chinese if her mother could speak perfect English. This essay has something magical about it because of Tan’s highly personal and powerful style, which she uses to win the attention the audience. She uses her mother as the center of her writing – therefore her audience – to ensure that she seeks the audience of several English speakers and writers. Without her paraphrases and quotes from her mother’s conversation, both in the house and in the public, including official duties, as well as Tan’s role in her mother’s telephone conversations, we could not understand how different people understood her with varied percentiles.
Amy Tan writes this essay in a sequential manner, which ensures that the audience advance from different stages of English language. She begins with the introduction of her style of writing and proceeds to introduce her mother. She uses this to create a picture of the family in which she lives and its impact on her Englishes, including her husband, whom she claims does not realize when she speaks the simple English because that is what they all use together. In later paragraphs, Amy Tan informs the readers about the different instances when her mother faces different challenges in the public including her stock broker, at the hospital, and with her peers. Talking of peers, Tan significantly diverts her attention to the learners of English language alongside other disciplines such as mathematics, and indicates that her formative years influenced her performance in English, where she got little marks and lower grades compared to other disciplines. Finally, she indicates that the language ability tests can never reveal the intent, ability, passion, imagery, and the rhymes of the speeches and nature of the thoughts of her audience.
In her introduction, Amy Tan indicates that she can only give her personal opinions on the variations in English language in the United States or other countries in the world. She begins by informing the audience about her passion for English language despite growing up in a setting that “impaired” her English skills. She also informs the audience the language is very important in evoking emotions, visual images, complex ideas, and the simple truth. In the third paragraph, the author introduces her talk, where she indicates that her mother was also one of the audiences. Perhaps she intends to include her mother in the audience so that she can differentiate the Englishes she uses with different audiences. Her mother systematically represents the home setting, and she realizes that her daughter uses distinctly different English from that, which she uses while back home. She continues to include her husband in the fourth paragraph as she uses the simple English with her mother. he fails to recognize the switch in her English because they have been using the same English to communicate for several years.
Subsequent paragraphs explain the hustles her mother went through in the hands of different people in the society including the bank, stock brokers, and the hospital personnel. Tan assumed her mother’s position at times during phone calls to ensure that the language barrier was eliminated. She uses these instances to indicate ho language can become a barrier to effective communication, thereby evoking varied emotions in different people. She also tackles the academic aspect of language formation from the family levels. Tan indicates that her mother’s English almost had an effect on limiting her possibilities in life. She explains that due to formative language developments, different studies have noticed that most students who speak English as a second language usually chose math related professions such as engineering. Amy Tan successfully indicates that language is instrumental in communication and in shaping the careers that students chose in life.
Finally, Tan indicates that the determination of the learners and speakers of English languages determines their abilities to use the language perfectly. She also indicates that, in her formative writing years, she received criticism for her style before finally embarking on writing fictions. Her persistence and self-trust ensured that she developed her language and managed to speak perfect English. She ensures that the audiences are encouraged to believe in themselves while speaking English Language. However, this essays shows criticism for the people who criticize simple English speakers.
Amy Tan. “Mother Tongue.” Originally Published as “Under Western Eyes” in The Threepenny Review, 1990, pp. 315 – 320.