Amy Tan's "Mother Tongue": Embracing Linguistic Diversity

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About this sample

About this sample


Words: 717 |

Pages: 2|

4 min read

Published: Jan 30, 2024

Words: 717|Pages: 2|4 min read

Published: Jan 30, 2024

Table of contents

  1. Background Information
  2. Linguistic Dominance as a Power Dynamic
  3. Personal Identity and Linguistic Dominance
  4. Language and Relationships
  5. The Importance of Linguistic Diversity
  6. Conclusion
  7. References:

Amy Tan's essay "Mother Tongue" explores the concept of linguistic dominance and its impact on personal identity and relationships. As a Chinese-American writer who has experienced the challenges of communicating in English as a second language, she sheds light on the power dynamics associated with language and highlights the significance of valuing and embracing linguistic diversity. In this essay, we will examine the different ways in which linguistic dominance affects individuals and communities, as well as the benefits of promoting linguistic diversity.

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Background Information

Amy Tan's background as a Chinese-American writer provides her with a unique perspective on the role of language in shaping individuals' experiences and identities. She grew up in a bilingual household where her mother's Chinese dialect was "broken" English, while her father spoke a more fluent, educated English. This linguistic divide in her family sparked her interest in exploring the complexities of language and how it affects personal relationships.

Language is a fundamental aspect of human experience, as it shapes the way we communicate, think, and perceive the world around us. Language also carries cultural and historical meanings that help us connect with our past and heritage. The language we speak is a reflection of our identity, and it often influences how others perceive us.

Linguistic Dominance as a Power Dynamic

Linguistic dominance refers to the power imbalance that exists when a particular language is elevated above others, leading to discrimination and marginalization of certain individuals or communities. This manifests in various forms, such as the privileging of one language over another in institutional settings like education and the workplace.

Through her personal experiences, Amy Tan highlights the ways in which linguistic dominance can restrict opportunities and recognition. For instance, her mother's limited English resulted in her being dismissed as a "limited" person by others who couldn't understand her language. This shows how language can be used to marginalize and exclude those who do not conform to dominant language norms.

Personal Identity and Linguistic Dominance

Linguistic dominance can have significant impacts on personal identity, particularly for individuals who grow up with multiple languages or speak a non-dominant language. Language proficiency can be tied to self-esteem and confidence, as individuals who struggle with a dominant language may feel like they don't belong or are inadequate.

Amy Tan's personal experiences with English as a second language demonstrate this struggle. She describes feeling embarrassed and ashamed of her mother's broken English, which made her feel disconnected from her heritage. This highlights the importance of embracing and valuing one's mother tongue for personal empowerment and preservation of cultural heritage.

Language and Relationships

Linguistic dominance can also affect communication and understanding within interpersonal relationships. Language barriers can hinder meaningful connections and create misunderstandings, leading to conflict and resentment.

Amy Tan's essay provides examples of how language impacts communication within her family and in the larger social context. For instance, when her mother struggled to communicate with doctors about her health issues, it resulted in misdiagnosis and inadequate treatment. This shows how language can have life-altering consequences and emphasizes the importance of recognizing linguistic diversity.

The Importance of Linguistic Diversity

Linguistic diversity can be a valuable asset for society, promoting cross-cultural understanding and inclusivity. Recognizing and embracing different languages can foster empathy and appreciation for diverse cultures and perspectives.

Amy Tan's work highlights the need to challenge linguistic dominance and promote equal recognition of all languages. Studies have shown that bilingualism has cognitive benefits, such as increased creativity and problem-solving abilities. Furthermore, linguistic diversity is an essential component of a thriving democracy, as it allows individuals to engage in political debates and express their opinions in their native language.

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Amy Tan's essay "Mother Tongue" provides a compelling argument for the significance of valuing and embracing linguistic diversity. Through her personal experiences and analysis, she shows how linguistic dominance can lead to discrimination and marginalization. Language is an essential aspect of personal identity and communication, and recognizing the value of linguistic diversity can promote cross-cultural understanding and inclusivity. As a society, we must challenge linguistic dominance and promote equal recognition of all languages to create a more equitable and compassionate world.


  1. Tan, A. (1990). Mother tongue. The Threepenny Review, (43), 14-20.
  2. Cenoz, J., & Genesee, F. (2015). The Cambridge Handbook of Multilingualism. Cambridge University Press.
  3. Heath, S. B. (1983). Ways with words: Language, life and work in communities and classrooms. Cambridge University Press.
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This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

Cite this Essay

Amy Tan’s “Mother Tongue”: Embracing Linguistic Diversity. (2024, January 30). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 17, 2024, from
“Amy Tan’s “Mother Tongue”: Embracing Linguistic Diversity.” GradesFixer, 30 Jan. 2024,
Amy Tan’s “Mother Tongue”: Embracing Linguistic Diversity. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 17 Jul. 2024].
Amy Tan’s “Mother Tongue”: Embracing Linguistic Diversity [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2024 Jan 30 [cited 2024 Jul 17]. Available from:
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