Amy Tan’s A Mother’s Tongue Essay

Amy Tan’s A Mother’s Tongue Essay

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Amy Tan’s A Mother’s Tongue


The purpose of Amy Tan’s essay, “Mother Tongue,” is to show how challenging it can be if an individual is raised by a parent who speaks “limited English” (36) as Tan’s mother does, partially because it can result in people being judged poorly by others. As Tan’s primary care giver, her mother was a significant part of her childhood, and she has a strong influence over Tan’s writing style. Being raised by her mother taught her that one’s perception of the world is heavily based upon the language spoken at home. Alternately, people’s perceptions of one another are based largely on the language used.

Tan was born to a pair of Chinese immigrants. Her mother understood English extremely well, but the English she spoke was “broken.”(36) Many people not familiar with her way of speaking found it very difficult to understand her. As a result of this, Tan would have to pretend to be her mother, and she called people up to yell at them while her mother stood behind her and prompted her. This caused Tan to be ashamed of her mother throughout her youth, but as she grew, she realized that the language she shares with her mother is a “language of intimacy” (36) that she even uses when speaking with her husband.

Just as with her books, Tan’s focus in this essay is her mother. Tan considered her book, The Joy Luck Club, a success after her mother read it and exclaimed over how easy it was to read. However, the audience of this essay is not Tan’s mother, but rather it is anyone who can relate to this situation. Tan’s purpose was to bring to attention the fact that when the language spoken at home is different from that spoken by the general public, problems will arise for those caught in...


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...ensitive to the situation. The doctors would have a totally different story.

Tan succeeds in her use of pathos as she manages to make her mother seem helpless. This is quite a feat, as her obvious strengths have already been displayed in situations such as when yelling at the stockbroker. Tan supports her depiction of her mother as a victim by bringing up how people “did not take her seriously, did not give her good service, pretended not to understand her, or even acted as if they did not hear her.” (37)

Tan has proven herself a master of rhetorical appeals as well as proving her point, that language can have drastic affects on the users. She has judged and been judged by her language, and has seen her mother disrespected because of how she speaks. Speech is important, as it is used as a tool to determine the limitations of your thoughts.



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