All posts by keelana

“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.