Amy Tan’s Language Analysis in Mother Tongue

Amy Tang brings into light discrimination that sprouts whenever someone speaks in broken English. Throughout the story, Tan uses her mother’s speech to show how limited English knowledge and understanding can be challenging. The story begins by pointing out different English languages that Tan speaks while communicating with her mother and others. Firstly, Tan is not fluent in speaking English but later emerges as the writer of the same language. Tan’s mother is struggling and facing difficulties and prejudice due to her fractured English. As an English Second Language speaker, Tan examines her linguistic identity, her mother’s variations while speaking English as well as her relationship with her mother that perhaps shapes her new view of linguistic identity.Tan uses different styles to present herself as a non-native who is struggling to establish her linguistic identity. Despite the obstacles, in the end, she becomes a great writer, and this is well-illustrated when she says she is a writer, but not a scholar (Comley et al., 77). Tan is courageous to tell her audience that she is fond of English since it makes her happy and plays a fundamental role in her life. “Language is the tool of my trade. And I use them all – all the Englishes I grew up with” (Comley et al., 79). In her quote, Tan points out that she is not an English native speaker, and as such in her family there have been different variations of Englishes, meaning broken English and that could only be understood at her family level. At this point, Tan clearly states that it is challenging to communicate with others using several styles of language.

Tan presents her mother as a person who speaks many Englishes, and she has showcased that by using different words to describe her mother’s English as limited, fractured and broken. However, she views her mother’s English from the perspective of the mother tongue. Many of Englishes her mother speaks are due to first language influence and as such she terms her mother’s English as impeccable. Tan’s turn of events to praise her mother’s language appears as a surprise to many. However, for Tan, her mother’s English is not broken and limited as perceived by many. “Some say they understand none of it as if she were speaking pure Chinese, But to me, my mother’s English is perfectly clear, perfectly natural” (Comley et al., 80). She asserts that due to cultural background, her mother’s English should be understood and embraced. Tan, an established English writer by now, set the new lens that people should use when judging others based on their language. Tan challenges the audience to accept the different variations of the English language and avoid English-based prejudice and discrimination.

Tan outlines the struggles of learning English when she narrated her relationship with her mother when she was young.  Perhaps, the challenges that she faced with her mother while growing up influenced her to explore linguistic identity from a different perspective. Her relationship with her mother and her experience in school taught her that English comes in many styles, and there is no correct form of English. As a result, people should avoid prejudice and embrace Englishes that results from other native languages.  Tan discusses how the difference in linguistic identities can negatively affect people due to cultural differences. She pokes holes on the discrimination and prejudice that is directed towards people who speak broken and limited English. Tan advocates for different Englishes, speaking styles and variations and calls for the respect of cultural-influenced languages even if their English styles are not acceptable by the dominant community.