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The Use of the English Language in Mother Tongue by Amy Tan

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Tan firmly supports the dynamic character of language. She is critical of achievement tests which have rigid parameters of rating language skills. In her personal experience, she did not excel in such tests because “ The answers on English tests were always a judgment call, a matter of opinion and personal experience” . She holds that such tests are not a true measure of language skills, as they prioritize logic and semantics over creativity. Tan asserts that language is continuously influenced by family background. She believes that it is not only the language spoken by peers which impacts a child’ s language, but also “ the language spoken in the family, especially in immigrant families which are more insular, (that) plays a large role in shaping the language of the child” .

She suggests that there can be no single rigid form of English, as children from multi-ethnic backgrounds bring their own unique interpretations and speech patterns into their way of speaking. Tan discounts the importance given to the traditional forms of English. She sarcastically points out her attempt to use “ wittily crafted sentences, sentences that would finally prove I had mastery over the English language” .

She realizes that these rigid patterns are only an unnecessary burden and discards them, finding her own voice, which is a blend of her American and Chinese speech patterns. Tan shows that a truly effective language is flexible, changing and a reflection of the various cultures of its speakers. “ Mother Tongue” explores the various dimensions of language. But this is only the surface theme of the piece. Beyond that, it is a moving narrative of a beautiful mother-daughter relationship and the search for identity.

Tan unambiguously expresses her pride in her mother’ s language and personality. Tan’ s essay is very thought-provoking as it prompts an analysis of the influence of immigrants on the language of their adopted country and the disadvantages which have to be overcome by their children. Tan also subtly points out the link between command over the English language and racial discrimination in American society.

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preview essay on The Use of the English Language in Mother Tongue by Amy Tan
  • Pages: 4 (750 words)
  • Document Type: Essay
  • Subject: English
  • Level: Undergraduate
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