“Mother Tongue” by Amy Tan

Mother Tongue – the language that a person has grown up speaking from early childhood.  Although Amy Tan knows proper English, her Mother Tongue is “broken” English since she was raised in a Chinese household where “proper” English was not used.  Although Tan could understand how her family talked, it was hard for others to figure out what they were saying.  Tan gave an example of how she had to translate her mothers “broken” English into the “proper” English that others could understand.  Her mother would speak things like “Why he don’t send me check, already two weeks late” and Tan translated this into “Yes,  I’m getting rather concerned.  You had agreed to send the check two weeks ago, but it hasn’t arrived” (an argument between Tans mother and a stock broker).  Tan also made a point on how there are not many Asian American writers in today’s culture.  She explained how her teachers pushed her towards a career that involved math and science since she didn’t speak English that well, but Tan stuck with her passion and is now a renowned fictional writer.

 

Amy Tans writing reminds me a lot of how we went over the different ways we speak depending on whom we are around.  In a professional setting, Tan would speak very proper English, but when she was around her family it was “broken” English. She came to this realization when her mother attended one of her talks on a book she wrote.  She realized that she was speaking to the crowd in a different way that she spoke to her mother.  As students, we speak differently in a classroom setting than we would speak as if we are at home.  Unlike Tan, I do not speak my “Mother Tongue” anymore since it incorporated many ‘redneck’ sayings.  Because I am not partial towards ‘redneck’ things, I made sure that I changed the way that I spoke.  Whenever I attend family events, I can understand the meaning of what my relatives say since I grew around them.  And I think that is the most important thing.  Being able to understand the meaning and emotion behind the words is more important than the words themselves.

 

Advertisements

19 thoughts on ““Mother Tongue” by Amy Tan

  1. I think that each family can have it’s own little language of words that many others may not use or not even know what they mean, but the difference between others and tan’s was that her family barely spoke english. It is interesting to know that amy was used as a translator for her family members since she spoke english the best. I am glad she was able to break the mold and stereo type that all Asians had to do something in the math and sciences.

  2. I think it would be cool to have to languages like Amy Tan does. Not the part where you are the only one who can understand your family though, I would want others to be able to understand them, but I would still want to have two languages like her. I also though it is neat how she breaks down what here Mom says into a lot shorter in English. I also think it is cool that she pushed for what she wanted to do and not what others wanted her to do, which is kind of like what i am doing.

  3. I can really relate to what Amy Tan is saying in this writing. Most of my family is very country or “redneck” as some people would say and the way they speak is very broken as well. I can understand them all just fine and speak the same way as they do if I want. However, if one of them were to come hang out with me for a day and speak to my friends, most of them would have no idea what my relative would be talking about most of the time. I found this writing very interesting and it really reminded me of my own family.

  4. In my senior year of High School I had to read “Mother Tongue,” and reading it now I understood it in a much different concept. I think when I read it in High School I was reading it just because I had to. This time it was different because I knew what Amy Tan was going through in the way that which we are learning about speech communities. Last year I did not know about speech communities, nor did I hear anything pertaining to speech communities. It now makes me understand Tan’s frustration with her mother when she goes in public because she expresses she has to speak/translate for her mom. Tan understands the speech community between her and her family, but the outside world sees it as “broken” and choppy. It proves that there can be a speech community within a family, and not just things like football, southern accents, northern accents-broad areas. It can be narrowed down into something between just two people.

  5. I really like how in depth you got with this response. Rather than just retelling everything that happened in Amy Tan’s writing, you explained it. Furthermore, you related it back to our classroom and what we’re learning in that classroom perfectly. I especially liked what you said about us as students: “As students, we speak differently in a classroom setting than we would speak as if we are at home.” You’re so right; I know I’ve done it, specifically in classes with a hundred other students that I don’t know and am intimidated by. Lastly, I like how, instead of finding the similarities between you and the writer, you found the difference. Amy Tan used a “Mother Tongue” way of language whereas you did not. The way you backed it up, by saying, “Being able to understand the meaning and emotion behind the words is more important than the words themselves.” was the most powerful way to word your thoughts and I really enjoyed reading what you had to say.

  6. The broken English mentioned throughout Tan’s essay and in your blog post is very significant. It changed the way many people understood Tan’s mother and even how her mother was treated. Tan’s voice seemed to be much more influential when talking to the stockbroker and the hospital, which I thought was very interesting. Tan’s writing also reminds me of our class discussions of how change the way we speak depending on the circumstances and surroundings. I definitely agree with the point that you make that the emotions and meanings of words are incredibly more important than many people may believe.

  7. I think you did a great job summarizing Tan’s article. I find it very inspiring how Tan ignored her teachers advice about a career in math or science and followed her dreams and became a writer. It never occurred to me how challenging “mother tongue” can be for some people. I can’t imagine speaking two different languages like Tan. I would be so confused and probably get embraced if I was speaking publicly and used the “mother tongue” language from home. I think your very last sentence was amazing. “Being able to understand the meaning and emotion behind the words is more important than the words themselves.” That is so true. The mean emotion is much more powerful than the actual word.

  8. Overall I believe that your response to Tan’s article was well done. You really went into depth and found a way to significantly relate your blog with Tan’s article through the use of broken English. I found it very entertaining that Amy was the translator for her family since they spoke little to no English. It just goes to show how there can be a speech community within a single family and it doesn’t even have to be on a global scale.

  9. Amy Tans writing reminds me a lot of how we went over the different ways we speak depending on whom we are around. I agree with this completely. My mom, who greatly impacted my speech was very proper and did not allow the stereotype of growing up in the “boondocks” change the word choices she used, therefore I did not use these words. However when I am around my friends the words I may use will change. Speech communities can be on an individual scale not just community scale as we see throughout this piece of literature.

  10. I can really relate to Amy Tan, because my family is the same way in a sense. I grew up hearing three languages. I learned English from school and that’s what my dad primarily spoke, but when we were around his side of the family they all spoke Italian. My mother spoke English from time to time, but spoke Afrikaans to us since we were born. It’s interesting to me that I can understand both languages almost perfectly, but when it comes to speaking them, I can only speak a sentence or so. I discovered that I never really had practice speaking them, I just had practice hearing them and understanding what was going on. So when I am asked a question in either Italian or Afrikaans, I usually just replied in English. I like how you related this piece to your life experiences.

  11. I liked how you pointed out how Tan kind of translated what her mother said to others who had trouble understanding her and how we all speak in a “different way depending on whom we’re around”. I think we all, in a way, have to do that for our parents or grandparents or even little kids, sometimes they word things in a different way then people our age would. We may not have to translate to the extent that Tan did but there is always some sort of communication gap between those of different age or culture that affects us all in some way.

  12. I can completely related to this story because my family speaks in broken English too. When I was younger it used to embarrass me so much when I would bring my friends over and my parents would start talking to them in their broken English. My parents, just like Amy Tan’s, would say thing like “Why he no…” and my dad would constantly mix up compound words such as sleepover and turn it into oversleep. Like I said, when I was younger it used to embarrass me and I wanted so bad for my parents to speak proper English. So I would get mad when they messed up words and yell at them to correct it. Over the years, though, I have accepted that that is just my parent’s form of English. And being almost 40 years old, learning a new language is tough enough. So I’ve accepted their “tongue” now and I only correct them in a nice way.

  13. I find it interesting that Amy Tan considers “broken” English to be her mother tongue. I don’t really consider “broken” English to be a language, but more like a dialect. English is English, whether you have an accent or not. My parents are Pakistani and they have accents when they speak English. However, I don’t consider it to be “broken” English because it is understandable. Also, when I speak to my parents, I speak in normal English with an American accent. I don’t change my accent to match theirs.

  14. I find it interesting that Amy Tan considers “broken” English to be her mother tongue. I don’t really consider “broken” English to be a language, but more like a dialect. English is English, whether you have an accent or not. My parents are Pakistani and they have accents when they speak English. However, I don’t consider it to be “broken” English because it is understandable. Also, when I speak to my parents, I speak in normal English with an American accent. I feel like Tan does not want her parents to feel some type of way about their english. nI don’t change my accent to match my parents because I am used to their accents.

  15. My family doesn’t have its own “language” but we definitely do have some different that we say around each other that only we can understand. And we would never use them outside of our group. I also think it’s interesting how Amy Tan acted like a translator for her mother. When I was younger and my brother was still living at home, I would sometimes translate for him. He was very quiet and when he did speak, he often mumbled. My parents wouldn’t understand and so I would translate his words. We were so close that I knew what he was saying even if I couldn’t make out all the words myself.

  16. I agree with everything you said in this post. I also enjoyed where she describe how her mom talked and how it was different and other people can not understand it. My best friend from when I was you has an asian mother who speaks pretty similar to this and it was difficult for me to understand at first but over time I was able to understand what she was saying just like he could. It is amazing just to think about how many people speak broken english and how many of us can’t understand “english” because words are put in different spots than normal.

  17. I could relate to Tan very well actually. When my older brother and I would go out with our mom, whoever was standing at the cash register with her would pretty much have to speak for her cause she never adopted the English accent and never fully learned the English language. Then my step-dad which i consider like my real dad, he was born in Puerto Rico. So growing up in a house where English is pushed on you yet the “teachers” of the house can’t speak the language their trying to teach you; it was a rough start but eventually I began to understand their broken english and the proper english i was taught at school. Blending these two variations into my day to day speech has definitely influsenced my dialect and speech to my peers.

  18. I really liked how you explained this. Kind of a different way of blogging and I really enjoyed it. I liked how you related this to work we have done in class. I completely agree with you on understanding the meaning and emotion of words. The way we speak has to have meaning. I to myself speak differently in a classroom setting than I do at home. Great job on this blog.

  19. I agree with how you explained the authors definition of “Mother Tongue,” and i find my self using it in my every day conversations. For my I instead speak how I was taught and stay true to that rather than letting the southern dialect have any influence on me “west coast lingo.” I completely relate with your mother and her in how she had a hard time understanding because of her knowledge of English, just as I have experienced when speaking Spanish to students at an elementary I volunteer at.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s