Mother Tongue Critique

About this sample

About this sample


Words: 639 |

Page: 1|

4 min read

Published: Oct 22, 2018

Words: 639|Page: 1|4 min read

Published: Oct 22, 2018

Not all people who speak the English language speak it the same way. It is very uncommon to find two people that speak the exact same English because there are so many different forms of the language. This is the argument that Amy Tan makes in her story, “Mother Tongue”. Tan uses pathos to portray to her audience how through her experiences with her mother and the Chinese language she came to realize whom she wanted to be and how she wanted to write. In “Mother Tongue”, Tan discusses the many ways in which the language that she was taught affected her life. Throughout the story, she describes her relationship with her mother, who speaks “broken” English, and how her perception of language has changed due to her mother.

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Whenever Tan was younger, she was always ashamed and embarrassed by the way her mother spoke because it would often sound weird and many people not familiar with her way of speaking found it very difficult to understand her. Tan described that whenever she and her mother went to a store or restaurant they were not treated the same as someone who spoke “proper” English. She said that the people “did not take her seriously, did not give her good service, pretended not to understand her, or even acted as if they did not hear her” (Tan 765). As a result of this, Tan had to pretend to be her mother, and she would have to call people up to yell at them while her mother stood behind her and prompted her. The language created a barrier between Tan and her mother but as Tan grew older she ended up embracing this “fractured” English because it was a sense of home. She no longer saw an imperfection in her mother’s tongue, but comfort, as it had become a part of her family.

Within the essay, “Mother Tongue,” Tan discusses the power of language. She writes, “it can evoke an emotion, a visual image, a complex idea, or simple truth” (763). One of the main points of her story was that words are more than just words; sometimes you have to look behind them and read in between to understand their true meaning. For example, her mother did not speak perfect English, but the points and ideas she was trying to get across are what really was important. Amy Tan also felt that standardized tests could not accurately determine a person’s intelligence. She effectively makes her argument by using rhetorical devices such as, “I wanted to capture what language ability tests could never reveal: her intent, her passion, her imagery, the rhythms of her speech and the nature of her thoughts” (Tan 768). When she said that standardized tests cannot determine a person's true intelligence, she was trying to say how people have different ways of thinking and different types of intelligence, and yet these standard tests only can measure a certain type of intelligence; therefore it really is kind of unfair, for lack of a better term.

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Overall, the main idea of Tan’s story is to stress that just because someone cannot speak English to perfection does not in any way make them less intelligent than someone who is born in this country and understands and speaks English fluently. Tan has judged and has been judged by her language, and has seen her mother disrespected because of how she speaks but these experiences have shaped her whole outlook on life. Through her essay, Tan wanted to send a powerful message of how we ought to view people by their beautiful side and not by their shortcomings. Everyone has a message to say, it may be different from yours and it might be grammatically incorrect but it does not make the message wrong, it just makes it unique.

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Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

Cite this Essay

Mother Tongue Critique. (2018, October 22). GradesFixer. Retrieved December 5, 2023, from
“Mother Tongue Critique.” GradesFixer, 22 Oct. 2018,
Mother Tongue Critique. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 5 Dec. 2023].
Mother Tongue Critique [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2018 Oct 22 [cited 2023 Dec 5]. Available from:
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