Amy Tan Mother Tongue Summary

1193 Words3 Pages

Author Amy Tan, having grown up with a mother who did not have English as her first language, has experienced a very different set of circumstances than an average English-speaking household when it comes to communicating. In her article, “Mother Tongue,” she dives into her past, sharing the language struggles she saw her mother encounter, along with her own battles with finding her literary voice. What she found in the end was that everyone, regardless of native tongue, uses many levels of language; one then shifts between those levels, depending on who audience is perceived to be at any given time. Tan expresses the need to be more cognizant of these different levels of English, in order to focus on intent instead of complexity. The article's …show more content…

Recalling an experience early in her career, being less than subtly told she'd be better off in a different field, “I was told by my boss at the time that writing was my worst skill and I should hone my talents towards account management,” she contemplates how often other Asian-Americans have been subjected to a similar situation (23). “Why are there few Asian-Americans enrolled in creative writing programs?” she asks. Tan contemplates on how in multiple studies, Asian-Americans overall do better in Mathematics versus English, which pushes her thought process to, “this makes me think there are other Asian-American students whose English spoken in the home might also be described as 'broken' or 'limited.' And perhaps they also have teachers who are steering them away from writing and into math and science, which is what happened to me” (23). While there is no absolute proof of it happening on a regular basis, Amy Tan's experience allows one to contemplate the ease of such actions. Believing that some people do not have the skill set for writing, based simply on their background is a stereotype that many can inadvertently fall into if one does not take the time to see the individual's personal goals and their will to achieve them. One can imagine, if Amy Tan had not fought against the pressures she faced going into writing, that American …show more content…

She attests to the importance of focusing on the intent of words instead of the complexity and warns through events of her own life, the error of judging those who use distinctly different levels of English. Ultimately, she thoughtfully challenges people to contemplate stereotypes that many hold towards Asian-Americans, potentially keeping the world from experiencing their talent in the writing community. Finalizing the right balance of word choice can be a struggle, but if one respects and understands the audience, the intent will propel the writing forward. Having Amy Tan focus our attention on the intent of words versus how they are delivered reveals our penchant to stay within our comfort levels against our best interests when communicating, that it is real work to balance our speech to create a more robust piece of writing or speech. As a listener, moving out of our comfort zone is important, to find common ground. However, Tan has shown us that a writer or speaker, it is best to balance our speech, to make it easier for the audience to grasp the whole vision that is wanted by the author or

In this essay, the author

  • Analyzes how amy tan, having grown up with a mother who did not have english as her first language, has experienced different situations when it comes to communicating.
  • Analyzes how amy tan's memory demonstrates how people inadvertently change their language choices to blend them with the expectations they have of the audience.
Show More
Open Document