Amy Tan-Mother Tongue

Amy Tan’s article “Mother Tongue” really spoke to me in several different ways. First of all, I thoroughly enjoyed reading about her relationship with her mother, and she really did everything in her power to connect with her mom and help her get her messages across. She never seemed to understand why people thought of her mom’s English as “broken” until she grew up, and then she realized that it wasn’t “broken.” Her English was just misunderstood. To her, this form of English was crystal clear and easy for her to understand, but to everyone else it was only 50 to 60% understandable.
I never had to deal with anyone misunderstanding my mom’s English except with certain words. My mother was born and raised in New York and says several words different than southern people due to her northern dialect. Amy’s mom may not have been as clear as mine, but I can kind of relate to Amy’s struggles. I have also had to talk on the phone for my mom and get her message across to the other person. Especially when she calls the phone company or her bank. For some reason, they can never fully understand her northern dialect, and I always end up having to talk for her. I used to just blame it on the phone connection, but I realized if the connection was bad they wouldn’t be able to understand me either.
The article also showed me how different forms of English can evolve from several different dialects. Amy’s mom originally spoke Chinese, so her English was mixed with her native tongue and wasn’t always clear. This just shows that not all people speak the same and everyone has their own “mother tongue” that they speak with.


19 thoughts on “Amy Tan-Mother Tongue

  1. I also enjoyed reading about Amy Tans relationship with her mother. It is cool how she was basically the translator for her mom so other people could understand her mom. My Mom was also born up North, not in New York, but in Rhode Island. She does say somethings that I have never heard, but she also says Southern words too because she has been in North Carolina for a while now. I can not say I have had to talk on my phone for my Mom though, so I guess your case would be a little worse. I think it is interesting that her speaking English is so effected by her Chinese.

  2. I can relate to Amy’s moms frustration with not being able to speak fluent English. I had moved to Monterrey, Mexico when I was in kindergarten and went to a school that was for American children, but 95% of the students were fluent Spanish speaking kids. It was hard for me to get what I wanted to say across because I only knew the basic words for awhile and at recess or gym class they would always speak fluent Spanish. I could pick up on words here and there, but never the full gist of what they were all saying. I had a friend who had to “translate” for me and it puts me in the same shoes as Amy’s mom with Amy translating for her mom to get her point across. Eventually I became fluent in Spanish, but I still do not sound like I would be apart of their speech community even though I can fully understand and speak the language.

  3. The way that you connected your relationship with your own mother to Amy Tan’s relationship with her mother was very interesting. I personally haven’t ever faced the struggle of someone not being able to understand my mom, but I have had trouble with understanding other people and my mother is usually who deciphers the words for me. For example, my family from Ecuador certainly has their own form of broken English that they have a hard times using in some instances, but my mom grew up around that, so she can unwind the confusion for me. Lastly, there were a few parts in your response that you connected the writing to what we’re learning in class, and that is always beneficial!

  4. I found Amy Tan’s story very interesting. It was cool to read about her basically being her mother’s translator. All of my step dad’s family is from New York and I’m from a small town in North Carolina so it was quite the experience trying to understand all of them. Around here people usually talk slower with a small southern draw to it as opposed to the fast and loud New York accent that I was introduced to. They did not always understand me and I did not always understand them at first but we all adjusted to it pretty quickly and we all understand the little differences quite well now.

  5. I have never really had too much trouble with people understanding the way I or anyone else in my immediate family talks because I don’t think we have too much of any accent or dialect. However, I do have other relatives from New York and many of them speak with heavy northern accents and speaking to them over the phone can be especially difficult sometimes. I have spoken to many people who speak with broken English accents like Amy’s mother’s, and I know that it is not normally easy to perfectly understand all of the time. This emphasizes the point you make at the end by saying that everyone has their own “mother tongue” and it sticks with you your whole life.

  6. I really enjoyed reading about Tan’s relationship with her mother as well. I know if I was in that situation I would do the same for my own mom. Tan did not realize that her mother had different dialect from everyone else until she was older. That goes to show that as children growing up, your family might have a different dialect from others but you don’t truly understand until you’re older and around other people in school etc. I really like your last sentence, “This just shows that not all people speak the same and everyone has their own “mother tongue” that they speak with.” That is so true. People need to embrace their “mother tongue” and realize that everyone has a dialect they picked up on as children from their families, it just might not be as intense as others.

  7. I really enjoyed reading about Amy and her relationship with her own mother. I am very close to my mother; however, there is still things that her and I talk about that we just cant understand. The relationship of Amy and her mother is the prime example of this situation as Amy must translate for her family seeing as how they speak little to no English. Just goes to show that speech communities do not have to exist on a global scale, it could be merely within a single family.

  8. “her mom’s English as “broken” until she grew up, and then she realized that it wasn’t “broken.” Her English was just misunderstood.” This shows how many people view individuals that are different from ourselves. By having families on their individual speech communities this causes more variety and diversity and causing the world to be more acceptable to individuals.

  9. I found it interesting that you had to translate your mothers way of speaking English, to an English that someone else could understand. I too, also enjoyed when she wrote about how she tried to connect with her mother, and in a way translate her mother’s mixed language into something that anyone could understand! It made me think of my house hold and how the same thing goes on every day, with my mother speaking and English/Afrikaans mix that could really confused anyone who is trying to understand what she is saying.

  10. I definitely understand where Amy Tan is coming from through hearing about her experiences. My parent’s English is also broken and to other people they sound funny and foreign. I used to constantly find myself correcting my parents in their speaking habits and when I was with them and it was time to speak, I would simply speak for them so I didn’t have to hear their broken English. I, however, should have been helping them with their broken English rather than preventing them from speaking in their own way. Even though my parents don’t speak perfect English, I came to find out that many people don’t speak proper English who have lived here all their lives. It all depends on who you are and where you come from.

  11. I liked how you could relate to Tan in the way that you had to sometimes talk on the phone for your mom because they weren’t used to her accent and couldn’t fully understand her. Though your struggles may not have been as severe as Amy’s I know you still had to deal with some of the same issues and I thought that it was so great how you two could relate. I think it was great how you reminded us that there are so many different ways that people speak within the same language.

  12. I agree with your comment that everyone has their own mother tongue. It reminds me of our discussion about dialects in class. Even though we all speak English, our backgrounds might affect the way we speak, or dialect. It’s interesting that your mom has a heavy northern dialect and sometimes, people don’t understand her. I know that there is a difference between northern and southern dialects, but I didn’t it could be so strong that people can’t understand. I feel like different dialects are important because they allow us to express ourselves freely and everyone has their own unique dialects.

  13. I too enjoyed reading about Amy Tan’s relationship with her mother. I also get how we all have our own “mother tongue.” I liked how you related to Amy Tan’s story. Even though her mom’s English was more “broken” than your own mother’s, you still had some of the same struggles. It’s funny how our mothers voices are so natural to us. We hear them almost everyday since we are born. We’re so attuned to their accents, dialects, and vocal quirks that we almost don’t hear them at all.

  14. I really enjoyed your response to Amy tan’s and I could relate almost perfectly. I’m not Chinese but i get mistaken for them a lot seeing how I’m Asian. Bu growing up my mother who speaks fluent Norean and my father who speaks fluent spanish; things would get weird sometimes. both my parent’s English is broken so understanding one accent over another accent was difficult for me and still is. My parents engerish is so broken most of my friends can’t even understand what they say. I have to repeat everything they say in simpler more understandable terms in order for anyone else to understand them.

  15. I feel like everyone has had their own type of experience with trying to understand someones mother tongue. My grandparents on my dad’s side who are African American speak different from the ones on my mom side who speak “normal”. I still find it difficult to understand my grandparents because they use a lot of different words that I use, and my dad did not use these words while I was growing up. I feel like it is amazing to see how from generation to generation how the mother tongue changes and how being raised in different surroundings can change it.

  16. I like how you described her mother’s English as misunderstood rather than broken. It makes sense that someone would think she speaks broken English, but really if they tried to understand her I’m sure they would have no problem communicating with her. I also like the part about her relationship with her mother. I have a vey good relationship with my mother and it is very important to me. I grew up in the north so my dialect is the same as my moms. I don’t speak like a southerner because both my mom and my dad grew up speaking in the northern tongue.

  17. It was nice to here about amy’s relationship with her and her mother, I have a good relationship with my other. She has influenced my dialect more than anyone else has. She is from a different part of Canada so she has a different tone for different words which some of those words I even use today.

  18. Well I can’t really say that I have a problem understanding my parents but I can understand how the northern accent being hard to understand. Being raised in the south, I find it difficult to understand thick northern accents. When I go up to visit my family in Ohio my cousin’s friends have a hard time understanding me. They aren’t used to the form of dialect that I use and some can’t take my drawn out accent seriously. That I guess is somewhat related to how your mother’s accent is hard to understand on the phone. Great job.

  19. I can relate to the author’s mother on the stubble it is to try to communicate to someone with a sense of broken language. When I volunteer at this Elementary school, most of the children speak fluent Spanish and little to no English. Since they are in the Pre-K their level of speaking is equivalent to my knowledge of the language, yet I still find myself asking for them to repeat themselves or just and interpretation. I can communicate with them better than most would be able to but there is still a sense of language barrier that I can’t seem to break down due to the different speech communities we all belong to.

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