To most writers, their language is not just a method of formulating thoughts into words. As a brush for an artist, a language is a trade tool for those who live and breathe through composing sentences into a written masterpiece (Tan). Amy Tan is the author of a widely known piece of art, “Mother Tongue”. This essay will examine the role of language in every individual’s life through Amy Tan’s experience.
Family is a significant source of information that affects its members in different ways. After a brief description of her dedication to the use of language, Amy Tan immediately refers to her family-related background, with the purpose to show a particular sort of its influence. According to Amy Tan, usually, she does not utilize Standard English, as her mother has selective English knowledge and uses expressions, mixing it with Chinese. As a result, she cannot understand common English, while Amy Tan’s friends mostly do not understand her (Tan). However, to Amy, this particular mix of Chinese and specific English was perfectly natural and clear to such a degree that she calls it “Mother Tongue” (Tan). Despite describing her mother’s language as “broken” or “fractured”, Amy Tan emphasizes that “That was the language that helped shape the way I saw things, express things”(467). Amy is perceiving the need to fix this language, realizing its limitlessness. The mentioned evidence indicates that Amy Tan defines “Mother Tongue” as the primary language used within a family and substantially affects an individual.
Further in her essay, Amy Tan describes her difficulties with English at school and discusses the impact “Mother Tongue” potentially has on her. It was not simple for Amy to achieve excellent results in English tests (Tan). She explains it by referring to her mother’s way of thinking which changes her perception of tests. Amy believes that “it affected results on achievement tests, I.Q. tests, and the SAT”, directly reporting on the practical effects of “Mother Tongue” (468). To change her approach to English imposed by her mother, Amy has to conduct confusing logical proceedings (Tan). Amy Tan is influenced by her mother’s language and shows readers of her essay the sense of power that “Mother Tongue” has.
Amy Tan describes her first attempts to begin working as a writer and fixing the “broken” language. In her first year in college, she starts writing nonfiction as a freelancer and gets a comment from her former boss about her inability to write (Tan). After the second attempt at writing, Amy realizes that she cannot build a readable text (Tan). Then, she refers to her mothers language and successfully writes a text with neither an English nor a Chinese structure. Failures bring her to the understanding that she should write on her “Mother Tongue” basis, as she did not manage to master common English writing.
In her essay, Amy Tan shows the power of language as a phenomenon that affects many individuals’ characteristics. Referring to relationships with her mother, she presents her life as an instance of “Mother Tongue”. To conclude, Amy Tan tries to convince readers not to go against the primary influences, “Mother Tongue” causes. It shapes a persons mind, vision, behavior, and specificities of the method of communication. Everyone should fix their “broken” language, adapt to various needs, and grow as a unique person with a particular mindset.
Tan, Amy. “Mother Tongue”. 75 Readings Plus, edited by Buscemi and Charlotte Smith, McGraw Hill, 2008, pp. 465-470.