Tan, A. (1990). Mother tongue. The Threepenny Review

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Tan, A. (1990). Mother tongue. The Threepenny Review.

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This article interested me because of the style of writing Tan uses to portray the importance and power of language within her life. I also liked reading about Tan’s mother and the mother-daughter bond they share through language.
I like the wiring style of the author. Her syntax, diction, and flow make the essay easier to read while connecting to Tan’s main argument. Overall, there is nothing that I dislike about Tan’s writing style. I dislike the bias from some of the characters from Tan’s life within the essay, but there is nothing about the essay’s structure that.

“Recently, I was made aware of the different Englishes I do use. I was giving a talk to a large group of people, the same talk I had already given to half a dozen other groups. The nature of the talk was about my writing, my life, and my book, The Joy Luck Club. The talk was going was going along well enough, until I remembered one major difference that made the whole talk sound wrong. My mother was in the room. And perhaps it was the first time she had heard me give a lengthy speech, using the kind of English I have never used with her” (Para 3).


“But I do think that the language spoken in the family, especially in immigrant families which are more insular, plays a larger role in shaping the language of the child” (Para 14).


“But to me, my mother’s English is perfectly clear, perfectly natural. It’s my mother tongue. Her language, as I hear it, is vivid, direct, full of observation and imagery. That was the language that helped shape the way I saw things, expressed things, made sense of the world” (Para 5).

I believe that Tan is trying to prove how the command of the English language can be beneficial and detrimental in certain situations. The English language in her mother’s case was detrimental, for example, when dealing with the stockbroker or the doctors. In Tan’s personal life, her English skills grew with her age and eventually assisted her mother.
I agree with the author’s argument. Tan is speaking from experience and gives recounts of how her use of language shaped her life. I do not believe there is prejudice in her essay about her experiences. From her experiences-such as the her English grades and teachers in school-the reader is able to achieve a sense of how Tan grew to love English despite her encounters with discrimination.
I do not believe Tan displays any bias; however, I believe she is a victim of bias. Throughout her life, Tan experiences more bias actions based on her English language skills and her mother’s English skills.
I believe Tan is trying to reach a general audience. Her essay is not targeted towards any one specific person. I believe her essay is for educational purposes of anyone.
An opposing argument from “Mother Tongue” can be viewed that native citizens of the United States, not immigrants, can master the English language. Natural born citizens have a greater ability to be able to fully utilize their language while immigrants and children of immigrants can only use an imperfect form of English.
In the essay, Amy Tan’s “Mother Tongue” as published in The Threepenny Review in 1990, shows the use, importance, and power of language. Tan uses her personal experiences and her mother’s encounters to display how the English language has altered her life and how prejudices have affected her view of the English language. Within the essay, Tan expresses how other’s viewed her use and her mother’s use of the English language. Some of her friends said their language was “broken” or “fractured”. When Tan heard her mother speak, she felt as if the use of her language was perfect. Tan is able to see the beauty and truth of within spoken and written word. With the support of personal experiences and knowledge, Tan is able to create a valid argument.

I believe Tan was able to present her argument within the essay well. Her recount of her past highlights and expands her argument. Tan is able to state her position while providing personal experiences that does not distract the reader from the main goal. I believe her strength is formulated in explaining how language, both Chinese and English, has affected her life. In my opinion, Tan displays some weakness in overly explaining a fact. For example, Tan elaborates too much on how she scored when she compared her English and Arithmetic skills. Tan played to her strengths in writing this essay, which makes her weaknesses difficult to notice.

“Mother Tongue” overall was an enjoyable essay to read. Her spatial comparison and syntax allows the reader to achieve a sense of time of the events in her life. Tan’s essay revolves on her recount of events, which contributes to her argument. From her essay, Tan is able to display how important the English and Chinese languages are to her life and her mother’s life. I wish Tan could have gone more into depth about her Chinese language skills as background information though the essay focuses on the English language. Overall, I enjoyed reading “Mother Tongue”. In the future, I will consider reading The Joy Luck Club.

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