Amy Tan’s “Mother Tongue”

27 Sep

Writer discussed: Amy Tan’s “Mother Tongue” (Link to story)

Amy Tan is speaking of writing her book “Joy Luck Club” (there’s a scene below), so in that sense it works as a good example of a literacy narrative in that Tan writes about writing something. But where Tan really gets to something deep, is this idea how we acquire language.

Language is the tool of my trade. And I use them all — all the Englishes I grew up with.

So it’s also a literacy narrative on her experience with language, specifically her mother’s “broken English.” She talks about this idea of using multiple englishes. While we didn’t all grow up Chinese, is it possible to grow up speaking multiple Englishes? What are your different types of Englishes? What I think works the most is how Tan is able to bring it back to a literacy narrative about writing the novel and at the same time resolving the conflict growing up with her mother’s “broken English.”

I later decided I should envision a reader for the stories I would write. And the reader I decided upon was my mother, because these were stories about mothers.

This idea for having an audience in mind while writing is so key and something I forget it a lot. Who do you write for? And back to this idea of finding your own voice that is in the mother’s words “So easy to read.”


72 Responses to “Amy Tan’s “Mother Tongue””

  1. David A. Dominguez October 2, 2011 at 5:32 pm #

    I found the passage “Mother Tongue” by Amy Tan interesting because like others I agree that broken English exist in many families such as in mine so I am able to relate. Growing up and even now I catch myself talking to my family, friends, and girlfriend in a different matter then I would at school. Maybe it has to do with a society view on what people think of you, or how your speech in some way reflects who you are, or what you stand for. Amy mentions speaking in broken English and noticing that she is talking grammatically incorrectly. She states that her husband does not catch her error, which I have been in the same situation but I instead point it out and I discover my girlfriend did catch it but she does not correct me because we are accustom to this way off speech with one another.

  2. Alberto Romero September 30, 2011 at 3:40 pm #

    I can relate to this story because both of my parents don’t speak good English and have had difficult times trying to express themselves in past. I think most people who speak limited or broken English are not fully aware that their message is not being completely received by people. In their mind the message is perfect. It has been difficult growing up in a Hispanic family. Spanish has been the primary language at my parent’s home now and when I was growing up. The Spanish we spoke was the slang Spanish because my parents grew up in small village in Mexico. It was hard to break out of that way of speaking and to learn English. Living away from my parents for about 10 years now and I find myself not knowing how to carry a full conversation in Spanish without pausing and using
    English words to get my message across. The story explains how language can be created within a group of people and how language is a living thing that is going to keep changing.

  3. Israel Lopez September 29, 2011 at 10:11 am #

    A very interesting story is Amy tan in mother tounge. I can honestly say it is tough trying to learn the English from stratch. It is another thing to have someone not appreciate your attempt at talking and acting like they don’t have a clue at what is coming out of your mouth. A very inspirational part of this story is that if it wasn’t for her mother trying to learn a new language then Amy would not have ever made it all the way in life to becoming an author.

  4. ryan enciso September 29, 2011 at 10:09 am #

    i would have to say that english is my first language, because that was the language spoken at school. the reality is that spanish was my first language, born here in america i should have been really good at english, but i’m not. i remember when i first came to elac we had to take this assessment test to place me on the math and english level i should be in. I did very bad in both test. the english test was very difficult for me i didn’t know why at first, but i later found out that i never really spoke ” proper” English. My friends and I, always spoke english slang. Up to this day i still find the english language very difficult and i really don’t know why? i should be really good at it.

  5. carolyn gonzalez September 29, 2011 at 9:41 am #

    According to Amy Tans theory in “Mother Togue” we are train to write in a certain way because we want to be taken serious as a writer and a person. in society we are judge conanstly by the way we talk. In her story her mother has her daughter speak out for her because no one cares to listen to her broken english. I agree with her claim because if we all spoken all the same we wouldnt express ourseleves as a person.even thought her mother didnt speak very good english but that was the best she could do, and their is more room to learn because in life we never stop learning and we can grow as a person. i think sometimes we are scared to be wron in sir robinson theory and if we always limit ourseleves just because society thinks its not write to speak this way then their would not be creatively in this world and their wouldnt be inventors, creators and artists.

  6. Araceli Santana September 29, 2011 at 9:38 am #

    The story “Mother Tongue” by Amy Tan was a good story because in reality that is what you hear out in the streets. Many people try to speak english to their best ability but sometimes it is difficult to speak with out an accent. I for example have helped my mother make important calls over the phone because she doesn’t speak fluent english. But even if there are people out there we shouldnt judge if they are trying their best because then their really not going to try to speak english. Many phrases even if their not said correctly can be distinguished what they are trying to say. Language is a fascinating language that can be communicated around the world. Therefore people use different slang and combine it with their own first language so it sounds weird for people who speak fluent english. I also believe that everyones language is a background of their culture and where they come from. People should not be judged for their broken english they are atleast trying to communicate through a tough language. overall it was an interesting story.

  7. Kenia Salgado September 29, 2011 at 9:37 am #

    I liked the story “Mother Tongue” because in reality there is different types of English. I think alot of people can relate to it because theres families where english isint their first language, and so theyre language gets labeled as “broken”. The type of english Amys mom spoke helped her discover her style of writing and that was in a way that it can simply be read and understood. She realized she had to write in a way where it was easily read so she wrote with her mother in mind. I dont think its fair when people label others as having “broken” english as in it wasnt good enough for others to hear. As i said, everyone has a different language and we should not label people for being a certain way, talking a certain way or even looking a certain way. We still owe them respect.

  8. Kevin Rocha (@ThisGuyKG) September 29, 2011 at 6:54 am #

    I completely agree with Amy Tan!! It all started after the first reading of the Banking Concept. And how we were suppose to comment on here. I was sooo confused and lost. I didnt know up from down. I was like “What do I do, What do I do?” So i started reading other peoples comments like you had suggested so I can get an Idea of what to say. And as I started reading just the first line of everyone elses comments, I was like Omg what are all these people doing??? We had just finished reading the stuff on banking concept, and how we’ve been brain washed and we needed to free our brains from it. And I dont believe anyone got the point. I was like Why the fuck are they all sounding like robots? I had no idea what to do. I didnt want to write the way I was told that I needed to write from K-12. For obvious reasons. And a lot of people were like blah blah blah college speak blah blah blah. And in their college speak they talk about how the Banking Concept being horrible and all of these things. You know what im trying to say? Well yeah, so I was like Let me just write my thoughts. That WAS the assignment anyway. And Amy mentioned how when she looked at her writing she was like Wtf, no one even talks this way. Who am I trying to impress? I cant even read my own writing. And I use to think that we were suppose to write like that too. But that was back then. And I also agree with her in the broken English part. My mom speaks very very very fluent English. My dad speaks it with a heavy mexican accent but completely understands. So as a kid I did learn both English and Spanish, but as I was growing, I didnt use my Spanish as much, since my parents could speak English and thats what my friends and teachers spoke. SO now when I try to talk to my grandma or someone who I need to speak SPanish to, I feel so incapable. I have the words, I just have no idea how to get them out. And not only that, but I speak it with an American accent most of the time. But I do speak Spanish. Its just when I get to the middle of a sentence and then I realize that I have no idea how to say, well a lot of things. But I learn a lot of those big or fancy or words that I knew in English that I didnt know existed in SPanish by listening to Shakira. Lol I’ve even learned ENGLISH WORDS from her. Like ambiguity and things like that. She’s so smart. So I can relate to Amy’s mom. So has so many thoughts and so much to say but when she opens her mouth its like her voice disappears. Oh and good youtube video! I loved the acting!! It was really good.

  9. efren September 29, 2011 at 12:18 am #

    How she uses different englishes makes me think about my life. With me it was different spanishes. I had the spanish I spoke with my family, the one I spoke with my mom and the correct proper spanish.
    With my family we spoke the “ghetto”spanish where we made up words or combined them to make a sort of slang. With my mom we had a spanish where only she and I understood. The one I had the most trouble with was the proper spanish. In high school I took spanish speakers classes and ap classes. I would get in trouble because I would sometimes use the improper spanish.
    I believe we write for ouselfs. Sometimes if it only makes sence to us thatn that’s all that matters.

  10. Erika Verduzco September 28, 2011 at 11:54 pm #

    Living in the United States we see many people who don’t speak the “proper” English because many of them are immigrants. Often times I see people make fun of others when they cannot pronounce or talk English very good. It is sad because they are actually trying to assimilate to this new language and trying to speak it. A lot of my family members talk in “broken” English and sometimes I can’t understand what they say but instead of making fun of them I help them out when they get stuck on a word or phrase. Just like in “Mother Tongue,” she said that people would often pretend like if they did not hear her mother since they didn’t understand her English. But I think that people have different ways of communicating with others and even if they have not mastered English at least they are trying to use the language.

  11. Lijing Shan September 28, 2011 at 11:25 pm #

    Language is very important in people’s life because it relates different thinking from each other. Everyone speak language in their own ways, even though they are speaking in the same language. Also people like to learn more than one language because they want to use it to know different cultures and get more knowledge. However, not every language is easy to understand and not everyone can learn a language easily. In my opinion, if you want to learn a new language fast and well, you have to use it everyday and everywhere. I came from China, and I did not think i had the good skill of English even i learned it when i was third grade in there. However, after i moved here, I started to improve my English quickly. I figure out that I speak English everyday and read a newspaper in English, write in English as well. Although my English still has a lot of grammar problems, I can express what I try to say and let others understand at least. It should be a good start to get successful in English.

  12. Maria Guerra September 28, 2011 at 10:54 pm #

    This story is interesting, i like how she talks about the different englishes. i could relate to this story because my first language is spanish and i grew up talking spanish until i started school. though my parents had been living here for a while already, their english was very limited; once my brother and i started school my parents started to learn english from us, but we were still the ones translating for them. over time my parents have learned english and now they dont need us to translate for them, they still dont speak perfect english but its good enough to carry a conversation. when at home i talk spanish the majority of the time because its something i dont want to let go of. though i speak and understand spanish its still different to have a formal conversation so thats what i need to work on. in the rare ocassions that i talk to my parents in english, i have to change my english a bit to make it easier for them but still a little challenging so that they can learn at the same time. i try to help and explain things to them when needed because i wouldnt want anybody trying to take advantage of them because of their limited english.

  13. Jorge Hidalgo September 28, 2011 at 10:34 pm #

    In the United States, if you are bi-lingual, and English is your primary launguage, your chances of being successful are increased twicefold. Diversity, now there is a term so widely used in U.S, but in the form of a melting plot, not a progressive acceptive society. i do not want to sound like I’m assuming everyone does this, but a assimliating into the United States means letting English become your main language. I come from a Salvadorian and Guatemalian family, and the only way i can relate to any of my people living in those counries is through Spanish. Central American Spanish is a little faster and has a dope swag about it. I think seems Amy Tong’s mother could’ve been arguing with my mom in what is considered “broken English”, and they would both understood each other.

  14. Kimberly Limas September 28, 2011 at 10:28 pm #

    In “Mother Tongue”, she speaks of different types of English. I do see that people that speak English as a second language, do struggle with speaking different types of English and can relate very much to what Tan talks about which makes this very interesting to the reader. I can understand a lot of what she explains when she says that how your family speaks with you can shape the way you speak language. In my family, in my grandparents spoke nothing but Spanish, when they first came to California. And my parents were raised speaking Spanish but learned to speak English at a young age, so they would also do the translating when it came to speak to certain people. And as time past my grandparents slowly started understanding English better, but still have that heavy accent Spanglish language, my parents understood but others wouldn’t. Us grand kids were raised with the English language as a first language and Spanish, well Spanglish, as a second language. Since they had been learning to speak English and ended with Spanglish, we had learned in that way. But as we learned, they do try to correct the way we speak their native tongue. I do find this story is very good and very much relates to the way we see reading writing and language in English and other foreign languages.

  15. Andrew Gutierrez-Hernandez September 28, 2011 at 10:21 pm #

    I found that this reading was very interesting. Amy Tan’s “Mother Tongue,” was like reading into my own life. As a Mexican-American language is sometimes a challenge because you need to be on top of both cultures. So language is huge. And I believe that it is key to how you express ideas and information to each other. For example, at home I am to speak Spanish but because I do not speak the best spanish sometimes I need to express what i am trying to say by using a english word and someone else translating it over to spanish. In some cases because it is so common you dont even need the translation due to it becoming its own language. They call it Spanglish a totally different language for a different generation whom understands it.
    As far as the literacy narrative, its almost like the papers we wrote. We depict our lives and expressions in order to get a point across and we ourselves learn from our writing and what we do best when he speak. At the sametime we teach others to understand different languages when they read. I enjoyed this reading because sometimes as a latino we are misunderstood.

  16. Sofia Lu September 28, 2011 at 10:19 pm #

    I can totally relate to Amy Tan’s story. My mom and dad are first generation to live here, so their english is what Amy Tan would call “broken.” I experienced a lot of what Tan speaks about; such as having to call people on the phone and pretend I was her. It’s never easy for immigrants to live in a new country, and getting used to a new culture is challenging enough without having to learn a new language as well. Even though my family and I have been living in this country for over 20 years, the english language is still challenging to my mom. It’s also true what Tan says about people getting bad customer service when they don’t speak the language well. I’ve seen many cases where a person who doesn’t speak any or much english tries to get some help in a store, will get no help from associates. I understand there may be a language barrier, but it’s pretty sad to see how rudely some of these people are treated. I’ll usually step in to translate if I understand what they’re saying. But the point is that as long as American remains this meltingpot of cultures, language is always going to be an issue.

  17. Oliver Blanco September 28, 2011 at 10:09 pm #

    The English language is a challenging to understand. When I was growing up my parents did not speak English, this made it difficult for me because at school my teachers would educate me in English while my parents would educate me in Spanish. I struggled all the way through Middle School, Jr. High School and High school. When I entered college, I started improving my English skills by reading and writing as much as I could. Amy Tan talks about her understanding her mother while no one else could understand her mother. My parents are the same way, they try to speak English, but at the end I end up having to translate for them. I have been asked by my parents to call a company and tell them to fix a problem they created. I call them and talk to them at a professional level, but when my parents call them the following day the workers wonder what happen to my parent’s language.

  18. Thinn, Meemee September 28, 2011 at 10:03 pm #

    People around the world have been using broken English almost all the time, especially in Asia. Broken English is important for people who cannot speak English well. Even though it is imperfect way of speaking, we all can communicate with each other by using it. Amy Tan’s “Mother Tongue” story reminds me of something that I heard from a man in supermarket. I was looking at the fishes for purchase and checking if they were fresh in seafood section. A butcher from that supermarket came and told me “fish- no Japan, buy it” I can completely understand what he said. He meant that the fishes were not from Japan and we could buy them with no doubt. At that time Japan has faced earthquake, flooding, and nuclear stuff going on. Consumers were worried about the products from Japan because of Tsunami. Anyway, at least that man described what he wanted to say through broken English. I think that sometimes perfect spoken English is required, but understanding what someone else said no matter what styles of language he or she uses is the most important thing in communication with people in society.

  19. Jenny Kim September 28, 2011 at 9:44 pm #

    In Amy Tan’s “Mother Tongue” It really had a connection with me and I could relate to her. I talk to my parents in Korean because they can’t understand English. There is a language barrier but that is how many asian parents are. They came to America from a different country and english is not their first language. When Amy had to call places and pretend to be her mom speaking perfect english it reminded me of what I do. I have to to call many places for my parents and speak for them. I believe language is very important and the power it has behind it. It is a necessary tool we need in our life to communicate with each other.

  20. Jorshun Brown September 28, 2011 at 9:07 pm #

    In life, language is a neccessary tool to have. This is how we communicate with one another and without it, we can’t build relationships. Through language, we can express ourselves. Free our thoughts verbally and let our voices be heard. But Amy Tan’s “Mother Tongue” is a story that I can’t relate to. English is my primary language. However, I didn’t grow up speaking proper english. I spoke slang english. For instance, I would say things like, “I’m finna go home” instead of “I’m about to go home”; use words like “fo sho” meaning “okay”; or “what it do” which means “whats up/ hi”. Still to this day I use this sort of language with certain individuals. After aquiring knowledge on how to speak proper english, I felt that I was a complete person. The great thing about me is that, eventhough I grew up in the hood, I also have a classy side to me. Now, I know how to speak proper english but I use it when its neccessary. For example, during job interviews or with people who I feel that are important. But when I combine them together it’s such a beautiful thing. When I speak, people listen. My words are felt because I speak from the heart. My physical appearence may lead a person to believe that I’m not a bright guy. But when I open my mouth they’re amazed at what they hear. “You can take the boy out the hood, but you can’t take the hood out of the boy”.

  21. anasaenz September 28, 2011 at 9:00 pm #

    In Mothers Tongue, Amy Tan explains how when writing The Joy Luck Club she kept her mother in mind. When writing you need to ask yourself who is your audience, this will curb your way of thinking and the speech you use, because you need to relate to your audience or they will be totally lost and not want to continue reading. I like when Amy explains the art of language. I think everyone has their own. And not even just for different nationalities, but just a way a person talks. Ill sometimes catch myself saying “that sounds like my sister” Even if i just get a text from her that seems odd or something she wouldn’t say, even in a text my sister has her own language. Yes language is speech but it does not stop there. A couple days ago my cousin told me her experience of when she went to a festival for deaf people. Her stories amazed me, how everyone was communicating and hardly any words were being said. She said a guy sang a whole song, well just with signing of course, but that seemed so crazy to me but in a cool way. I understand how Amy explains the language between her and her mom. My family is the same way. My speech at home is different from when i step out into the world. And i think if your parents were born in a different country it has a lot to do with it. Their dialects and certain phrases are something i grew up with and it will always stick to me even if it is just used at home it is part of my language.

  22. Mayra Torres September 28, 2011 at 8:46 pm #

    Mother Tonuges story is more than likely to relate to each and every one of us. Amy Tan is right when she says there are many different forms of English. Although we all speak one language which is English some of us mix it with other languages like “spanglish” especially when we are at home. We are all from different ethnicities and even when we speak our first language at home we always seem to mix in English. Yet we are still able to tell the difference when we right or even when we try to be formal because we know we are just trying to sound “smart” or like we know our vocabulary 🙂

  23. Andrew T. September 28, 2011 at 8:34 pm #

    I really enjoyed reading this, it made me realize that i do speak different to my parents even when it was all English. A Vietnamese accent comes out of me when i speak English to them. However, its not just restricted to my parents; I have different accents towards every group of people. Its true, even though its all English, they would not coexist side by side. Language evolves in different ways and shapes and I glad that I know so many.

  24. Karen Altamirano September 28, 2011 at 8:18 pm #

    I’m most people who grew up around family members that spoke another language can totally relate to Amy Tan’s “Mother Tongue”. My mother raised me so my first language was Spanish but as soon as I started Kinder that all changed. I began to speak more English, and my siblings were there to make fun of me whenever I would pronounce something wrong. Once I hit first grade, I had finally mastered the English language. I would come home, and tell my mom about my day in English, forgetting that she probably didn’t understand a word I was saying. As I got older, I kept pushing Spanish to side and that truly hurt my mother. Here she spent 4 years unemployed raising her daughter, teaching her words in the only language she spoke and now her daughter just throws all that out the window. I guess she thought I was ashamed of speaking Spanish. :/ I tried everything to make her see that I’m still in touch with my roots, I even went to Nicaragua for a month so I can work on perfecting my Spanish. Now we compromise and work together; I help her with her English and she helps me with my Spanish.

  25. Carlos Franco September 28, 2011 at 7:05 pm #

    I can relate to the story because like Amy Tan I have to translate everything for my parents. It can be a bit frustrating when my parents want to know everything that is said in English but it is mostly for essentials like bills so I have to help them. I did however once never knew English and i just spoke Spanish because everyone in my elementary school spoke Spanish until the fourth grade. Because of this i was mostly in remedial classes all the way until high school. But i did improve on my writing and i am now a better writer. Like Amy tan who is the first generation to speak english, it was really hard for us to read and write english.

    • KATRINA CASTANEDA MARTINEZ September 28, 2011 at 7:42 pm #

      I can’t relate exactly. All my family pretty much speaks English. Some can speak Spanish also but they know both well enough to not really need a translation. If anyhting the young ones need translations from English to Spanish. It can be difficult at times but it’s not annoying. The only translation that really gets to me is having to show older people how to use computers or cell phones. To most people it is easy but for some reason they just don’t get it and that is not good for someone who doesn’t have patience.

  26. Alejandro Ortega September 28, 2011 at 6:53 pm #

    I think most of us could relate to the story of Amy Tan’s. My mother and father can’t speak English because they both came from Mexico. My both parents education is really low my father only finish the first grade while my mom only finish elementry. So for them being able to learn a new language would be difficult. However, they learn couple of words from me and my sisters. Therefore, when they try to speak some english it sounds funny and broken. But i correct them and teach them how to say it properly. Growing up in a family that only knew Spanish my first language that I knew how to speak and write was Spanish. While in elementry Spanish was the first language i was thought how to write and speak instead of English. Therefore, after second grade I began how to learn Englis,h how to speak, read and write proper English. However, being behind from those students that knew English I felt that I was behind because couldn’t spell right or speak it properly so my English was broken. The way I talk at home is diffrent compare to the way I talk at school. At home I speak Spanglish while at school I try to speak proper English for people won’t judge.     

  27. Christopher Luk September 28, 2011 at 4:53 pm #

    Looking back on my life experiences, I can definitely say that my writing has shifted from writing for the teacher to writing for myself. I think this change occurred because of my changing perceptions on life as I got older. I don’t think I was able to see the true purpose of writing until I was faced with my own adversities dealing with depression and failure. All throughout grade school I would just lazily write essays for my teachers that would earn the bare minimum grade of a “B”. Writing felt like more like a chore then a powerful tool of self-expression. Maybe it was my immaturity, I can’t really put a finger on it.

    I realized when I got older that writing my thoughts down made me understand myself more. Being who I am, I’ve never really considered myself being able to communicate verbally as well as other people. Because of that, I’ve been committed to writing as my better form of self-expression. Being a writer and writing for myself in my own style has really grown on me in the past couple of years. My views on writing have changed significantly from years ago. I believe writing is a life-long craft shaped by my personal experiences that expresses myself in a way that I couldn’t if I was just speaking.

  28. Serafini September 28, 2011 at 4:33 pm #

    “I see, I see you” = I understand, I feel you… Interesting clip. Interesting text. I think that the simplicity of Amy Tan’s mother’s language is due to the inherent simplicity of the chinese language. From what I understand, the chinese language contains less words that describe many things, without the specificity that the english language offers. However, this doesn’t mean that ideas and thoughts are truly limited, because humans possess a certain intuition when it comes to communicating with others and relaying emotion. Perhaps this dialect, and others of its sort “show” more, rather than “tell”, in this respect.

  29. Gabriela Abanto September 28, 2011 at 4:31 pm #

    I really like “Mother Tongue” by Amy Tan because its a story very similar to many of our lives. As an in migrant, people have to come to a different country and face most of the ones difficult problem which is the language. English is not hard to learn but it requires time and patience to do it. Unlike Amy, I came here three years ago and I was forced to learn English even thought I knew some of it. I can say that I am able to communicate with people, to read and to write. However, my parents do not speak too much English and specially at home. We usually talk in Spanish and I am not ashamed of that. I think it is good and people should be lucky to have roots from different places. Every time a person moves to a different country, it involves a change, but it doesn’t mean to forget our roots and not even our customs.

  30. Huiwei Hao September 28, 2011 at 4:30 pm #

    Language plays a big role in our society, especially when you are in a foreign country. Most of immigrants are being told to speak “broken” English. Or language that people can understand but contain a lot of grammar error. I really like this story because even though Amy’s mother speaks broken English, but this broken English contain meaning that only certain people will understand. This broken English represent ones own culture, express who you really are. We really don’t have to speak perfect English in order to live and communicate in American as long as we can express our thought and ideas.

  31. Josue September 28, 2011 at 4:01 pm #

    i can relate myself to amy tan. both my parents dont speak english so i have to translate everything to them. When im home im the one who has to answer the phone. Im always with my dad because he has his own shop and he wants me by his side so i can talk to the clients and to other people when he has to talk english. At first it was pretty difficult but then it got easier and i got used to it.

  32. Libby September 28, 2011 at 3:15 pm #

    This is my favorite reading thus far. I completely relate to Amy tan from a different perspective. English (and English as spoken in england) is my first language. However, I grew up around lebanese, Greek, Italian (etc) people and always had to dumb down my language. Then there is Australian English which is predominantly slang. Then there is my father’s family who are Italian immigrants. So the concept of “the englishes” is brilliant and so true. I have a tendency to write to people who want to hear what I have to say. Sounds silly and a tad obvious but I don’t think I write with a genre or an audience in mind at all, except for thinking of sharing what I have to share with whomever may be interested.

  33. Ching Wai Lee September 28, 2011 at 3:12 pm #

    I have a similar story as Amy Tan. The only difference between Amy Tan and I is she is a native American and I am an immigrant. My family speaks Chinese(Cantonese) at home. My dad and mom are not good at English. My mom always asks me to reply the phone call for her in English. When we go out, either my sister and I need to stay with my mom. My dad and my mom said “broken language”. I don’t remember the words, but I can understand when I hear any of that. Just think the words into Chinese way and I would get these words. It is my mom’s style of English. I know that some native may not understand my mom’s English, but I think language can be various styles. In Hong Kong, there are Chingish (mixture of English and Cantonese) which appeared in this few years. e.g. “I very like this book ar. ” It translates to English should be ” I like this book very much.” . Hong Kong’s Chingish appears after I immigrated to the US. I felt strange when I saw this kind of English for the first time. Later, I realized that it is the amusing part how language can be used and combined together.

  34. Garret Klein September 28, 2011 at 3:04 pm #

    As individuals, language is the only tool we have that lets us share our thoughts and experiences with others. As well as all coming from different cultures and ethnicities we not only learn language differently as individuals, but learn to perceive words in the way they have been tought to us. This not only complicates language, but it mashes words and phrases together to mean other things then there initial meaning. The great thing about language is that this “new” definition isn’t necessarily wrong, it’s just used in a way that you’re not familiar with or is a completely new word you haven’t encountered. This is fascinating to me, as everyday we are confronted with new experiences which language lets us question, discuss and percieve to our liking.

  35. Sandra Marquez September 28, 2011 at 2:42 pm #

    My native language is not english, I grew up in a spanish speaking house and many of the events Amy Tan described in the short story I went through. Just as Amy Tan I ended up translated for her mom I did the same for my parents because they spoke “broken” english and they were not always able to carry out a conversation.

  36. Diana Centeno September 28, 2011 at 2:02 pm #

    After reading the post on languages, it is interesting to find that people have many language styles when it comes to communicating. In a family enviornment. People use a more casual language style amd not so scholarly use of language. Language styles vary in each individual person due to their capacity and influences in their home. Also when it comes to speaking english people have their own versions of speaking it and also it has to do with their ethnic backgrounds of what is the proper way to speak english.

  37. susy gonzalez September 28, 2011 at 1:58 pm #

    I can relate to this story, I remember when I used to be embarassed of my mothers broken English. She was born in Mexico so her native language is Spanish. I was also born in Mexico but was lucky enough to be brought here when I was one year old and therefore mastered both English and Spanish. If I would have been brought here at a later age, I would probably be speaking in that same English that people seem to ignore or not understand. Luckily, most places nowadays have bilingual speakers but it is still very common to see people being ignored or taken advantage of for not speaking or understanding the English language perfectly.

  38. yue,shilong September 28, 2011 at 1:43 pm #

    As a student whose mother tongue is not English, I deeply feel the importance of learning English since I study in the U.S. If people do not have good English, they not only have some problem in the daily life, but also affect their GPA. I am very envious of other ABCs. Because my mother tongue is Chinese, I speak English which has Chinese accent so that I feel very inconvenient to conversation with my professor and classmates. Although I studied hard to improve my English, I still cannot write a good American style essay. It makes me very upset and block me a lot. Not everyone has the genius for learning languages, but people should adapt the new the living environment by improving the second tongue as same as the mother tongue.

  39. Frank Ventura September 28, 2011 at 1:20 pm #

    Mother Tongue, By Amy Tan, certainly did demonstrate the instrinsic value of a language, the one you grow up with. I can definitely relate to Amy’s struggle, for I am also the child of an immigrant mother, who as best as she tries, speaks simple English that only I could probably understand. The language I grew up with as a young child was Spanish, and I spoke it the way my mother did because that was the way I was taught, by her. As time passed I learned English, and that barrier developed that eventually it became more difficult for me to interact with my mother without constantly making grammar mistakes in
    Spanish, while perfecting my English. I had to take Spanish classes in high school (eventually college-level) in order for me to truly understand what my mother was really telling me. But, no matter how grammatically correct my Spanish is compared to my mother’s, I still have that “mother tongue” that allows me to communicate with her while understanding everything she says, all the while she understand me. At some point I had felt sympathy for my mother because eventually she stopped trying to learn English, and I would have to translate for her on various occasions. Nonetheless, I feel Amy Tan’s purpose for writing this narrative was to demonstrate that she is able to evince her true roots in her works of literature, while still pertaining to simplicity, that even her mother who spoke simple English, she would still be able to understand it with ease. And, just as I, no matter how much she excelled in English, she is still able to communicate with her mother through that “Mother Tongue”.

  40. Flora Moreno September 28, 2011 at 12:56 pm #

    Wow! “Mother Tougue”, by Amy Tan, I started to remember about my childhood when I was reading this essay. I could really relate to this thinking, what Amy calls, speaking different englishes. My mother has no school education, and my father was well educated majored in radio, spoke very proper spanish and soon mastered his english well. My father would always correct me when I used a word out of context or when I used the wrong pronunciation, whether it was spanish or english. Although i was not able to enjoy much of his language because he died at a young age, I see the diffence in language that Amy talks about, not getting the same treatment as othes that speak the proper english would. I am reminded of my mother’s language. When I speak to other people, I to use a more propler spanish than I would with my mother. When I speak with my siblings the english or spanish will also change. For instant I have two educated brothers and one eduacated sister, when I speak with them, I tend to use proper english, then when i speak to my other brother,who didn’t finish high school and didn’t care much about school, I feel more comfortable with him, because I could use the slang english or spanish and I know he will not be judging me. I also tend to change my english when i am speaking with someone from another country, and I know they are limited with their english, i tend to speak in a way they they will be able to understand me, at times i feel that i am helping them, but then maybe I should stop since i am limiting their english skills, by not using proper english with them. I was also reminded by my daugher that I tend to do this alot when I am speaking with someone from another country. Whether it is Mexico, China, Russa, the Middle East,etc., I guess I am only trying to make them feel comfortable in talking with me and, while i am enjoying their company. It’s funny, though because after I continue a conversation in the other english,I tend to get lost, in the beginning of the conversation the person was able to relate with me because I was using the other english, then i feel bad because i am only understanding about 70 percentile of their conversation.

  41. Scott Holzbauer September 28, 2011 at 12:52 pm #

    This story kind of touches a very key point in life and that is that where you grow up influences you greatly and how you speak. We think in language and so our thoughts can only be as good as our language. This goes with writing as well. If we limited ourselfs with language then we will suffer in the end. Growing up with a language deficiency can and must be somewhat heartbreaking. Depending on where you stand in the country and seem to dictate how smart you are buy your language. Sad but a fact of life. I think learning as much as you can about English is only going to help not only you but the people you are around.

  42. aundria solis September 28, 2011 at 12:51 pm #

    while reading “Mother Tongue” i became to realize that english has different ways of being used. either in school or at home, no matter where you are you have different ways of using the language like with teachers, parents, and your friends. like with my family we have our own way of talking to each other. but no matter where you are we are all different and have our own way of talking and even writing everyone writes different then the way the speak, because to most its improper to write the way you speak. but with the everything getting betterand faster and evern new slang coming everyone has to be on there toes and keep up with everything or they will fall behind and that is never fun to be the last to know. so as Amy Tan had her own way of speaking with her family and then with other professionals, thats how everyone is and will become.

  43. Morgan Maloney September 28, 2011 at 12:46 pm #

    I think that there are different languages, even though i just speak english, there are other forms of the english language. My sister always tells me how ‘getto’ i speak, but thats only because its slang, i subsitute other words for different words. There is definetly another language i speak, and if i do speak it, some people might not know what im talking about, but others will. So, yes i do think that there are other types of english languages.

  44. Vince September 28, 2011 at 12:44 pm #

    And Neither of my languages are “Ghetto”. ;D

  45. Vince September 28, 2011 at 12:41 pm #

    I do believe that we speak different types of Englishes whether we know it or not.
    My different types of “Englishes” are “Spanglish”-which I speak to my cousins, aunts, uncles and siblings. Proper “scholarly English”- which I speak when I’m around certain people. English/Armenian- which I speak at work. “simple English”- when I speak to other people that have “limited” English. And “My English “- which I speak all the time and it is plain, old, vivid, English and I speak it with friends and family.

  46. James Zaffina September 28, 2011 at 12:26 pm #

    The only person I truly write for is myself. That may sound selfish or arrogant, but it is far from that. I’ve never ever really thought about what “audience” was writings were geared towards until I read “Mother Tongue”. Tan’s recolection of using her “standard English” during her speech and another form of English while talking to her mother was at first very strange too me, but once I thought about the idea it started to become clear that I do the same thing. The language I use is my papers is filled with fully thought out words (can not, did not, etc..) which I have been taught my whole life is the correct way to write a paper. Although the language I use at home is still English, I noticed that all the things I try so hard to avoid in writing come out like a open faucet when I’m speaking in a truly comfortable situation. I believe that by Tan writing “Mother Tongue” she is trying to make the readers see that although we all come from different backgrounds, there are commonalites that stretch over all lines.

  47. Raymond Boucher September 28, 2011 at 11:54 am #

    “Mother Tongue” was an interesting narrative. I think every family has its own mother tongue. Whether it be broken English or slang. I think each family has its own way of speaking with each other. It’s interesting how Amy Tan was able to understand vividly what her Mother was saying to her all the time. I van relate to this story because mt great grandmother is not very fluent in English and i can understand what she is trying to say. It’s interesting how i am able to understand her, but others can not. This is my second time reading “Mother Tongue” and it never gets boring because i can relate to her narrative.

  48. Jennifer Bautista September 28, 2011 at 11:45 am #

    By reading Amy Tan’s “Mother Tongue”, I’ve noticed that English is a funny language. So many ways a word is pronounced and so many rules and exceptions. For example comb, bomb, tomb all end in -omb, but they all sound different. Same goes for, sentences like these: You can reach me at this “number” or As I climbed up the cold mountain my fingers became “number”. I suppose it all has to do with what context we use it in and that the English language can be manipulated in so many ways. This reading reminded me of my mother because she knows a little bit of English and I’ve corrected her so many times, but it just doesn’t stick. I haven’t seen much progress in her English, but I definitely understand her when she speaks. The only thing I tell her when I’m correcting her is that I can understand her, but perhaps people on the phone she speaks to may not and that’s something she needs to think about. Overall, I don’t really think it’s her intention not to speak proper English I just think that knowing and speaking so much Spanish for most of her life, It may like to intrude on other languages she is trying to learn or speak.

  49. ming xie September 28, 2011 at 11:23 am #

    This is my second time read “mother tongue”. Her mother use her “broken” English makes Amy Tan can have her own writing style. The language problem usually shows up at first generation of an immigrant family. Some of my friends can speak great English, but their parents only can understand limited English words. But in California, this fantastic place, even if you completely don’t know any English, you still can have a good life. There are too many Chinese here. Onetime I went to a Pekin restaurant, no body speak English in there, even the waiter can’t understand English. That’s amazing. I thank Amy’s story not only happens on Chinese but also other immigrations.

  50. Melvin Gallegos September 28, 2011 at 11:20 am #

    In middle school and high school, whenever I would referrer to my parents “broken English”, I felt equal to that, of what Amy Tan did. In addition, like her I finally understood how my parent’s form of English came to be. In doing so I determine not to assess their intelligence by the English they use, nor to frown upon their use of English and pride myself in my English according to theirs, or be ashamed of my English when speaking to another with a sophisticated manner of speaking. The idea of multiple forms of English is true, and is develop according to your setting and the numerous factors that are engage. Interesting, an acquaintance and I were having a conversation about this very topic the other day. He disagreed and said it is directly correlated, which I can understand, but his explanation to why was “they are just not that smart”

  51. Yolanda Garcia September 28, 2011 at 11:02 am #

    In reading Amy Tan’s story I am reminded of my father because many would say that his English and even his Spanish is broken. He is from Mexico but was never educated in the proper way to write or speak. I discovered that his Spanish was not proper myself when I began to take Spanish classes at my high school. I learned what is considered the proper way and found that the Spanish I use with him differs then the Spanish in I use with others and the Spanish I was taught in class. The Spanish I use with him doesn’t consider grammar all that much and includes slang. I, like Amy Tan, use “family talk” and it is a comfort. The language is free when you don’t have to worry about how you are saying what you mean. In family there is no need to defend myself against those who criticize me because the whole family speaks just as I do. People who do know me do not respond like my family, they judge me on appearance and what I say. If I say something wrong, they label me as incompetent and uneducated. This judgment is wrong because what people mean when they speak is more important than how they put that meaning into words.

  52. Nataly Cerrano September 28, 2011 at 10:31 am #

    I really liked Amy Tans story. I could relate to it a lot because my parents weren’t born in the united states. Sometime my mom english is at times broken. I really liked it because she didn’t realize she was speaking broken english with her family. Its funny how Amy’s mom made her make phone calls. Its funny because my mom makes me do that for her. Me being able to speak english motivates my parents to learn english and perfect it. This story opened my eyes because sometimes I do change the way I talk when it comes to my parents.

  53. Derrick Simms September 28, 2011 at 9:56 am #

    Tan’s article talks about stereotyping people based on how they speak, what English they use. Most people I think judge someone’s intelligence by the words they use. Tan knew first-hand how smart her mother was, even though her English was not text book. Recognizing that different audiences will understand what is being communicated depending on how it is said is something very useful in a job that requires interacting with many different types of customers, I have recently learned. For the most part I have been able to find approaches that work with different customers. However, I find it very insulting when, because you don’t use just the right word that it is assumed you are ignorant. Tan also mentions the approaches to testing in school. If the language one is taught is inconsistent with the test language it seems very unfair to have these tests, like the SAT, be road blocks to those who really are intelligent. But, like Tan explains, math is precise, but there are many different Englishes.

  54. Valeria Guzman September 28, 2011 at 8:39 am #

    A mother’s Tongue, is very relevant because there was broken English in my home. My mother wasn’t born here so most of the broken English came from her, my dad on the other hand was born in California. Now over the time her English has got better and better, but it is still technically considered broken English. So in my home there is always a combination of both English and Spanish, and I never notice I do it myself until after I had already finished what I had to say. Everyone around the world has their very own way of speaking, and I think it’s interesting because you get to see how other people around the world have some broken English. This shapes us, like Amy writing style was shaped, and that’s what makes her the writer that she is today.

  55. christine Recendez September 28, 2011 at 8:23 am #

    “A mother’s Tongue,” i found to be very interesting, and relateable. As i was reading i thought it was funny because i could relate to the broken english spoken at home. Although my mother was born here, my dad was born in Mexico; and he really doesnt practice his english so it is in fact very broken. my grandmother also born in Mexico has been here for a long time and she too tries to speak proper english, but doesnt always come out like it should, but i do give her credit for trying. At my house alot of spanglish is spoken primarily because some words are easier to say in english or some words are easier to say in spanish. Language is such a broad subject. I belive everyone has different aspects and language because everyone comes from different parts of the world and have different accent tones and use different words for different things.

  56. Jonathan Soto September 28, 2011 at 7:03 am #

    Language has a huge impact on individuals. Such impact starts at an early age when a person understands that he or she can actually communicate with others. The ability to express a thought or idea is something that can be done in different ways, even if the language being spoken is “broken” the message conveyed can remain true to what the individual is trying to express.
    I came back to the states when I was fifteen and I noticed that the English my classmates spoke was different than the language used in class. This had a positive influence in me. Even though I would sometimes get both styles mixed up this helped later on. Now I can fully understand both “informal” and “proper” English.

  57. Yuk Hei Ho September 28, 2011 at 3:05 am #

    “Mother Tongue” clearly stated the difference between spoken and academic English. While spoken English is easy to follow and understand, academic English is much convincing and authoritative. Academic English is exactly what Amy wrote, “with carefully wrought grammatical phrases, burdened with nominalized forms”. People perceive academic English is much convincing and authoritative since it was much difficult for some people to follow and looked sophisticated because of the nominalized forms of words. People writing in spoken language would be deemed as “limited” as their writings were too easy to follow and for anyone to understand. Hence, people became overusing grammatical phrases and hard words to make their writings look “sophisticated and convincing”. Eventually, people forgot the fundamental use of language, to clearly and directly express themselves and their ideas, which is what the spoken English did.

  58. Ashly Ho September 28, 2011 at 2:34 am #

    Story of my life. Amy Tan’s “Mother Tongue” was one of the stories I found most relatable with. My mother is exactly like Tan’s and also in the amount of responsibility I had to bear because of my split identity.

    Much like Amy’s mother, mine spoke a fractured brand of English; not poor or undecipherable, more like someone had taken perfect, grammatically correct sentences and shaken them up. My mother was always very self-conscious of her “poor” English and on many occasions brought me along as the translator.

    I have never given much thought to who I write for, but I have always assumed my audience were my fellow classmates; educated and literate academics. But after reading about how Amy Tan tailored her narrative so that her mother could understand it, I believe I may have to rethink how I write and for whom I write.

  59. Elizabeth Hurley September 28, 2011 at 12:49 am #

    I enjoyed this article Amy Tan wrote. Although I didn’t live in Monterey Park as a child and even know I practically lived there when I was going to schools in the city. All my friend’s parents spoke in the way Amy Tan describes how her mother talks. I never found it different….or I guess I never noticed…I don’t know why but maybe I grew accustomed to it at a young age? I know that my best friend has to do a lot of things for her parents because they don’t speak english well or they get very frustrated when they are trying to have a conversation with someone who keeps going, “huh?” for every sentence they say. It’s very frustrating when people constantly say huh as your talking it’s very rude and also makes you think why should I bother trying to communicate with this person. Just recently I was tutoring at a school and the teacher who taught the children Chinese actually came up to me and asked if she could listen to me talk. She wanted to learn how to speak “properly” she said which kind of scared me because I don’t think I speak that well! She told me that she knew what words meant and the basic things like that but she didn’t understand how to say words properly…. I guess like how to verbally or casually talk…? When she spoke it was like how Amy Tan’s mother would speak ,so I guess she wanted more sentence structure. I notice now since I still work with her, that her “english” has improved but either way I was able to understand her “broken” or not. I know a lot of people find it important to have proper english but I don’t really mind… I never really understood grammar or all those crazy rules… things just kind of come naturally… When I would take my grammar tests I would just say the sentence out loud and the one that sounded right I would choose…… I don’t even know how I was able to pass the english placement test to get into english 101 I kind of just guessed on everything…..
    When I write I just write like I’m talking to someone or like I’m talking to myself which technically I really am….Anyways I like Amy Tan’s article it actually makes me want to read her book!

  60. Willy Chu September 27, 2011 at 10:57 pm #

    I found this narrative very interesting because I feel like I can totally relate to her. My mom is just like her mom, they both speak “chinglish”. Sometimes I like watching her speak broken English with another person. For example, one time she was looking to buy a light bulb, so she asks for assistant and she explains the type she wants to the worker with broken English. She would say things like “I want the one that do like that.” The confusion on the worker’s face was priceless. While all this was happening, I was a few feet away from them, I was close enough to see but not to be seen. But of course after I had fun watching them go at it, I would eventually come out and help translate. I just wanted to share that because mixing two languages as one can be pretty entertaining.

  61. Sally Pickett September 27, 2011 at 10:52 pm #

    Everyone has their own “family talk”- not only in different languages, but different dialects, mannerisms, and attitudes. Then there’s “friend talk,” and “formal talk,” and “casual talk.” I have found that I talk differently with different people- I tend to absorb some of people’s mannerisms, but on the other hand I might try to counteract, or contrast with them in some way. I think it’s interesting that she considered it a complement when her mother said her book was “easy to read”… maybe that’s another thing where it just takes knowing her well enough to know that’s a complement!

    My family in Ohio has a slight hillbilly “twang” to their speech (I’m sure I have a little, too, still!) But it’s definitely more pronounced when we are at home or at family get-togethers. I never really noticed it or thought about it growing up, but after being away for a couple years, now when I go back it seems a lot stronger than I remember. I feel kinda bad… I actually had to try to keep from laughing while my relatives were talking to me!

    For me, it is inspiring to envision a “muse”… whether I’m writing, drumming, or just going about my day. Sometimes I’ll envision a person in my life right now, sometimes it’s someone I miss, sometimes I just imagine a person that I would hope to meet someday.

  62. Sandra Olivas September 27, 2011 at 10:42 pm #

    I saw the movie and never knew it was based on a book. However, after reading her story, I’m going to buy the book. I do believe as she said there are different Englishes, one in particular, I know very well is Spanglish. I learned from home and from friends. I’m first generation and the oldest of three. My mom would combine words from English to Spanish so we could understand, for example to park a car; she would say and write parke but it would sound like parkay. In Spanish, to park is called estacionar, very different. She also learned how to say all the bad words, except she said them wrong and when my sister and I would say sit she thought we were saying a bad word and punished us. There was no reasoning with her. I too remmeber pretnding to be her when she had to call the bank to get information on her account. There were different types of Englishes we spoke with family and friends but we understood each other.

  63. Madeleine Correa September 27, 2011 at 10:24 pm #

    Amy Tan explores the idea of the family unit having the most influence on a child’s development of their speaking skills. Due to her own experience she see’s this just as another thing that makes an individual who they are. This “broken” English is what colors their world as it did hers which she so wonderfully captures in each of her works. Tan says she knows she found her voice when her mother comments on her book as “so easy to read,” she writes with her mother in mind. Though personally I have yet to figure out my who my own audience is.

  64. Bianca Perez September 27, 2011 at 9:20 pm #

    I’ve actually read this story last semester in my English class and thought it was very interesting. Culture and one’s surroundings really shape how someone speaks. You learn from your parents and earn their language. For example, my mother does know English well but her grammar isn’t the greatest. I’m the oldest in my family therefor lived with my mother the longest and I can tell you my grammar isn’t the best. It doesn’t mean I don’t know English it’s just what I was taught and used to. Language is a big part of one’s identity and culture some people just don’t see it that way.

  65. Marco Ruiz Zendejas September 27, 2011 at 9:12 pm #

    Although Amy’s mother had “broken english”, it helped Amy get her writing style. It seems that she is trying to convey the question “who decides how english should be spoken”. Amy has no problem with the way her mother speaks and states that she does not like how its described as broken as if it needs to be fixed which I agree. The great thing about the english language is that it can evolve with the environment or the many diverse lifestyles.

  66. Michael Ramirez September 27, 2011 at 9:08 pm #

    Amy tan understands the difficulty it is to be the first generation of an immigrant family. It is so funny how her mom believes she can speak English perfectly just like my dad. This book teached me the common life style of an asian family living far away from there native homeland. Amy tan uses great detail like sound and imagery from memories she has as a child. Great book written by a great author.

  67. Jed Villafuerte September 27, 2011 at 8:47 pm #

    I have a similar experience with Tagalog instead of Chinese. My grandmother knows how to speak English but mostly speaks in Tagalog. I sometimes have a hard time communicating with her in English due to how I speak it. I sometimes forget that I use different types of English depending on the situation be it my normal speak, a speech in a class, texting, or explaining a problem. So I understand Amy Tan’s point of view when she says some people have a hard time understanding her mother. In fact some people have a hard time understanding me even though from my view I am speaking perfectly good English. We just have a natural way of speaking that we use so much we often times forget. Language indeed plays an important part in so many ways.

  68. Francisco Lomeli September 27, 2011 at 8:41 pm #

    This was very interesting story about broken English. I think a lot of people could relate to this story including me because most of us are first generation Americans meaning our parents came to the U.S from a different country. I believe every one creates their own kind of English and it becomes broken English. This story was interesting because it is true that most parents have more of a broken English because English was not their first language. Like in the story, when you speak a lot of broken English sometimes you get treated differently. With a little less respect. But if you put effort and time you will master the language of English.

  69. Kevin Lee September 27, 2011 at 8:28 pm #

    I liked the story because I can relate since my parent’s were not born in the US and they have trouble speaking fluent English. The story was also amusing for me because I remember when I had to pretend to be my father when they call us for the bills. For me, I write for myself and my parents because I want to be able to help them out when they need some sort of paper works done. It is sort of an intrinsic motivation for me to write for my us.

  70. Ariana Barrett September 27, 2011 at 7:37 pm #

    I found this reading to be so interesting, and even though I’m not Asian I can identify with Amy Tan. My grandmother and great-grandmother were both born in El Salvador. My grandma can speak English, but sometimes she gets certain words and phrases mixed up. I never have had a problem understanding her though; my whole family (the ones who grew up in the U.S.) has its own lingo. We speak Spanglish to each other along with some Spanish slang and English slang, and we understand each other 100%. It makes it kind of fun that we can talk like this.
    On the other hand my great-grandma, or Abuelita as I call her, speaks very little English at all. Over the summer I took to the bank, the doctor, the T-Mobile store, and any other place she needed to go. I had to translate for her everywhere we went, she needed me. Not just because she couldn’t speak, but because a lot of people have any patience. I’m glad that I could help her, but I’ve always wondered how she did things without a translator. It must be so difficult.
    I remember my mom telling me when she came to this country kids at school use to make fun of her because she spoke broken English. She said she practiced all summer so that she could go back to school pronouncing everything correctly and using proper grammar. Now you wouldn’t even know my mom spoke Spanish if you talked to her. She overcame her obstacle with language through practice and repetition.

  71. Stacy McCorkle September 27, 2011 at 7:14 pm #

    Language leads thought. Psychologists have found that children start retaining memories after they acquire language, be it spoken or sign. It’s no surprise that Amy Tan’s “mother tongue” is what shaped the way that she sees the world.
    The Inuit have something like 30 words for snow. How many ways do Angelenos have of describing traffic? How many ways do people in the American South have of describing weather and just about anything else?
    Growing up in the South I learned the rather colorful English that is particular to that area. I learned phrases like “white on rice” to describe something that is really, truly stuck or entirely integrated. There was “like a pig in shit” to describe pure happiness; which doesn’t really make sense, because pigs prefer clean mud to cool themselves in.
    Having been gone from there for so long, I have a hard time understanding people when I visit, and yet the drawl finds it’s way into my speech after I’ve been there.
    Language is certainly fascinating in the way it can shape your experience of the world. I do think literature benefits from an infusion of whatever version of English best expresses the characters place in time.

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