Essay about Mother Tongue By Amy Tan

Essay about Mother Tongue By Amy Tan

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‘Mother Tongue’ is a short story written by Amy Tan for American literary magazine, The Threepenny Review (Shea, n.d.). This text raises ideas around the way we speak or use language throughout our daily lives, and what truly counts as ‘proper’ English.

When first viewing this text, we can see that it appears to be a story or article written specifically for a collective-style book or magazine. Key style points that prove this are the author’s name located underneath the title of the piece above the beginning of the story, and also her name and the title placed in the right upper corners of the pages.
The font style is very plain but looks as if it was typed on a typewriter, which immediately gives the impression that it is an article. The structure of the first page, which continues throughout the rest of the text, is very clean, square and compact, with the paragraphs only being distinguished numerically instead of using spacing.
In the bottom left corners of each page are notes that define particular words from the article. I questioned this in the beginning and deemed that it may be for readers who are possibly unfamiliar with the forms of those words, however commonly used they are.
After discovering where the article was originally published, the pieces fell together like a puzzle and I realised that, being a literary magazine, it seems fitting to define some of the richest sounding words.

The audience this text is directed towards would be young-adults to adults who are interested in language, literature, and vocabulary, or who even simply enjoy an interesting and thought-provoking read. I assume this, first of all, from the location of where it was first published, which is a magazine that publishes all formats of wri...


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...the stereotypical mould, and wrote a story using all of the different Englishes she used to capture her mother’s “intent, her passion, her imagery, the rhythms of her speech, and the nature of her thoughts” (1990, para. 21). This is what language is about.

With this analysis, I conclude that there is no such thing as ‘proper’ English. It is not only the academic style we learn in school, it is the English we use when communicating with our friends and family. It is the slang and contracted form we use when texting. Proper English is the ‘broken’ English of foreign speakers. Language is a tool for communication, one which we can use in so many ways; to create, and to express feelings and thoughts to others. If one is able to communicate passionately without the ability to form what academia would deem a grammatically correct sentence, then that too is proper English.

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