"Mother Tongue" by Amy Tan: a Reflection

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Words: 931 |

Pages: 2|

5 min read

Published: Jul 10, 2019

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Words: 931|Pages: 2|5 min read

Published: Jul 10, 2019

“Mother Tongue” by Amy Tan
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The essay explores Amy Tan's article "Mother Tongue," focusing on the author's intent and the themes presented in the piece. The central argument of the essay is that Amy Tan's goal in the article is to challenge the notion that individuals who do not speak "perfect" English are not intellectual. Tan's personal experiences growing up with her mother, who spoke a simplified form of English, serve as a backdrop for this argument.

The essay discusses how Tan effectively conveys her message by highlighting key points from the article. These points include the way Tan communicated with her mother, who was well-informed and engaged in activities like reading Forbes reports and conversing with her stockbroker, despite her non-standard English. Tan also explores her own evolving perception of her mother's language, ultimately recognizing its richness and clarity.

Furthermore, the essay emphasizes that Tan's ability to embrace various forms of English and incorporate them into her writing allowed her to reach a broader audience and even make her work more accessible to her mother.

Mother Tongue: response essay

My belief is that Amy’s goal in the article was to present to the public that just because an individual does not have or speak “perfect” English, it does not mean that the person is not intellectual. Being that her mother used a more simplified form of English, she was exposed to this and other forms of the English language, so it was easy for her to go back and forth and understand them.

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Amy utilizes many key points to achieve her goal and reinforces my claim in the article. One of the points Amy expresses is the simple approach when she would talk to her mother. Her mother being one to, as Amy stated, “reads Forbes report, listens to Wall Street Week, converse daily with her stockbroker” (Tan, 2006) This right here is proof that reinforces the claim that just because there is a shortfall in the perfect English category does not mean there is a shortfall in the intelligence. Just because Amy spoke to her mother in this fashion did not mean she could not do things or tasks that were required of her, such as being able to understand the information that was given to her by her stockbroker. On page two there is a section where she states, “I believed that her English reflected the quality of what she had to say. That is because she expressed them imperfectly. Her thoughts were imperfect.” (Tan, 2006) This is one of many statements that give a glimpse into the type of challenges they faced as both mother and daughter. Placing the blame on her mother and her broken English for all of the prejudice they had to suffer through together.

Even through all the challenges they faced, Amy continued to see her mother English as she always had, clear and natural. She supports this by saying “Her language, as I hear it, its vivid, direct, full of observation and imagery.” (Tan, 2006) Further reinforcing my claim of how her mother’s version is what she had been taught and how she grew to understand it. She then states, “This was the language that helped shape the way I saw things, expressed things, made sense of the world.” (Tan, 2006) Coming from a family that immigrated here from I agree with Amy, dealing with family members struggling to speak the proper way, but in the end I felt their version was better than the “proper” English we are taught in school, being that it was more colorful.

After all was said and done she chose to fuse all of the different forms of English she had and utilize them in her book. After this her mother was finally able to read and understand her writing without needing any explanation. “when my mother finished reading my book and gave me her verdict: ‘So easy to read’.” (Tan, 2006) Amy was able to recognize the different forms of English she was able write in and use it to her advantage to appeal to different type of reader which in return gave her an advantage regarding her writing.

“I have heard other terms used, “limited English”, for example. But, I wince when I say that. It has always bothered me that I can think of no way to describe it other than “broken”, as if it were damaged and needed to be fixed, as if it lacked a certain wholeness and soundness. I’ve heard other terms used, “limited English,” for example. But they seem just as bad, as everything is limited, including people’s perceptions of the limited-English speaker.” (Tan, 2006) This passage here really validates Amy’s claim in her article and mirrors my argument of not having to speak “proper” or “perfect” English to be deemed intellectual. It is just another way our society has found to discriminate. Nevertheless, her mother still pushed through all challenges she was faced with and got things done no matter who didn’t understand her or give her the time of day. Because of her mother and the different forms of English that Amy grew up with, she was able to use this to her advantage and appeal to a different type of reader, but most of all to her mother.

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The article, “Mother Tongue, is a vivid description of how an immigrant is faced with difficulties and challenges communicating, learning English, and overcoming cultural barriers. We live in a society that has a tendency to judge individuals on their traits, characteristics, beliefs, and one’s ability to communicate with one another. Tan captured what language test could never reveal about her mother’s intent, passion, and nature of her thoughts. The author does a great job of describing the way her was treated by her stockbroker and as a customer strongly supports her claim concerning how unjustly her mother was inaccurately judged. Additionally, the intent of the article is to show that language can be used to convey oneself and their thoughts. Tan did describe how she was ashamed of her mother’s English but in the end turned into appreciation for her mother’s struggles and accomplishments. This article is a very powerful message that can inspire just about any audience to accept that casting judgement, prejudice or assumptions in the end can hinder us as a society and community.

Works Cited:

  1. Fisher, J. (2012). Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Random House.
  2. Gladwell, M. (2008). Outliers: The Story of Success. Back Bay Books.
  3. Goleman, D. (1995). Emotional Intelligence. Bantam Books.
  4. Kaplan, R. M., & Kaplan, R. (2019). The Power of Positive Thinking. Penguin.
  5. Lambert, L. S. (2018). The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion: Freeing Yourself from Destructive Thoughts and Emotions. Guilford Press.
  6. Purcell, M. (2018). 5-minute Daily Meditations: Instant Wisdom, Clarity, and Calm. Rockridge Press.
  7. Seligman, M. E. P. (2011). Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being. Free Press.
  8. Sinek, S. (2017). Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. Portfolio.
  9. Tolle, E. (2010). The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment. New World Library.
  10. Williams, M., & Penman, D. (2012). Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World. Rodale Books.
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This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

Cite this Essay

“Mother Tongue” by Amy Tan. (2022, April 07). GradesFixer. Retrieved February 29, 2024, from
““Mother Tongue” by Amy Tan.” GradesFixer, 07 Apr. 2022,
“Mother Tongue” by Amy Tan. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 29 Feb. 2024].
“Mother Tongue” by Amy Tan [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2022 Apr 07 [cited 2024 Feb 29]. Available from:
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