Mother Tongue: Amy Tan’s Case

Language is a powerful communication tool that brings together people of great diversity and different geographical backgrounds. Tan indicates in her article that she imagines how the language evokes emotion, vivifies visual images, and portrays simple truths in a manner that is completely incomprehensible by her. Just like everyone else, her language is her business tool and she uses all the English, she has got to get there.

If only everyone lived in their native lands and never went to schools, their mother tongue would not be a hindrance to effective communication and learning. In some instances, this first language affects adversely people’s ability to speak fluently as recommended. It is undoubtedly true that overusing the first language has a detrimental effect on the fluency of national languages. As a matter of fact, people who are deeply rooted in their mother tongue find themselves in a compromising situation if they have to address a big crowd comprising of people from all walks of life. When he or she utters a word, it becomes a little tricky to comprehend what exactly they are saying and this translates to the exams.

Mother’s tongue has a great influence on the overall performance especially in the tested language in classes. Many linguists and sociologists will make the assumption that language fluency depends on the influence of peers but Amy Tan believes that language fluency is dependent on the mother tongue spoken by the member of the immediate family. In English for example, immigrant families play an imperative role in molding a person’s pronunciation of English words. In addition to that, it further affects a person’s ability to pass English examinations in class.

According to Tan, her mother’s English (her mother tongue) is well expressed and clear to her. Even though her friends barely understand her mother when she speaks, Tan grasps every single word and says her mother’s English is the best. This is because that was the language that nurtured her and made her see the sense in the world. The case is probably the same with many others, apart from Tan, who feel that their mother tongue is the best. However, from her mother’s quoted speech in the text, that is the worst English I can imagine someone speaking for me to understand.

Tan narrates how she had to impersonate her mother in a telephone conversation with a stockbroker who was delaying her mother’s cheque. It is interesting how her mother became paranoid and uncontrollable while all she was supposed to do was tell her what to say to the stockbroker. She recalls having to stall her mother because she was shouting to the extent that the stockbroker on the other end of the line would realize the impersonation. Barely five days later, Tan and her mum faced the stockbroker and she had to wear a serious face as the real Mrs. Tan yelled in her ‘broken’ English. The stockbroker could easily tell the difference in language from the Mrs. Tan he spoke with over the phone and the Mrs. Tan who was by then yelling vehemently in wanting English right in front of him.

From the facts indicated in the article, it is inevitable to say that Tan is qualified in her work. Given her mother’s pathetic English and the difficulty she confesses to have in English while at school, no one would ever imagine that she, an Asian, would master a foreign language to her extent. She is fully trustworthy since she narrates her story to the finest details and this is far from hypothetical. Everything that Tan says about her experience at school, how she had difficulty in answering English questions; describing them as ‘a judgment call’ and how her correct answers were merely the most bland arrangements of thoughts qualify her in making the arguments and judgments as she does. I believe her because all that she says in her text are far from being cooked. She does not give any reason for me to mistrust her because her experience in the English class as an Asian is expected for everyone whose mother tongue is as distant from English as hers. As a matter of fact, others have worse experiences because she could garner B pluses. If by any chance she were lying in her text, she would have exaggerated to vivify her experience.

Tan has achieved in appealing the values of the audience. She has also succeeded in making absolute assumptions to the cultural beliefs and diversities that I believe in. For instance, the fact that mother tongue is a hindrance to the official language as put by her is factual. She also believes that her mother’s pathetic language is t the best despite the fact that not even her friends can grasp what her mother means whenever she utters a few words in the form of a sentence. In fact, she recalls her friends assuming that her mum speaks to them in their native Chinese language but still she will not accept the fact that her mother peaks in broken English. Just like everyone else, she identifies herself with her mother tongue and acknowledges the fact that she was nurtured in it for all the time she was under her mother’s care.

When it comes to the use of emotions, I must say that Tan has managed to arrest my undivided attention by her words. Her experience as a kid, a teenager and as a literature guru has evoked inspiration in me and, I hope, to another person whose mother tongue varies greatly with the official language he or she has to use. In her quest to specialize in both the written and spoken English, she recalls having to fumble with sentence structures; some of which she cannot understand today. Her mother’s broken English becomes her inspiration and she thrives, against all odds, to become an impeccable writer. In fact, she, in many occasions, asks her mother to proofread her work for her and when she makes her usual verdict (easy to read), she becomes motivated to work even harder.

From her emotions, I have completely revolutionized my perception towards language mastery despite the effect from a mother tongue. I have noted that nothing can be branded ‘impossible’. She managed her way up to the helm of literature gurus despite her prior problems with her mother tongue. This was championed by her had work and her undying love and passion to improve her fluency in the language. Her mother too is an inspiration to the power of language. It is notably true that Tan’s mother played an imperative role in her achievements.

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"Mother Tongue: Amy Tan's Case." Premium Papers, 27 Aug. 2023,


Premium Papers. (2023) 'Mother Tongue: Amy Tan's Case'. 27 August.


Premium Papers. 2023. "Mother Tongue: Amy Tan's Case." August 27, 2023.

1. Premium Papers. "Mother Tongue: Amy Tan's Case." August 27, 2023.


Premium Papers. "Mother Tongue: Amy Tan's Case." August 27, 2023.