"Mothertongue" is a short narrative written by AmyTan.It is a delightful tale about the struggles of immigrant families inthe United States trying to cope with their imminent English languagedeficiency. Amy Tan addresses the topic of communication and howlanguage is not only a medium used for it, but a social instrumentfor measuring personal merit. She observed that her mother spoke"broken" English due to her thick Chinese accent. Tan wasborn and bred in a Chinese setting and mostly learned proper Englishin school despite not doing well in the various English languagetests. She used two different languages while speaking, the "dulland broken" English when addressing her mother and propergrammar when in front of her audience.
Forfact, her mother`s lack of proper language speaking ability does notreflect her intellectual aptitude. She is smart and understands morethan people think she does. Tan acknowledges this by stating themixed perceptions of her friends towards her beloved mother. In fact,her Mǔqīn,(mother), could read and understand complex reading materials likethe Forbes Magazine in addition to following up on her stockinvestments with her stockbroker. Of course, Tan is against thisstereotyping notion. Despite doubting her before, she firmly believedin her mother`s intelligence more than anyone else.
Englishwas her second language, and because of this, Amy was discouragedfrom taking up writing as a profession. Her critics claimed she didnot have the peculiarity of the language, which is vital for thetrade. However, due to her rebellious nature she pursued her interestto the amazement of many people. While working on a story involvingthe relationship between mothers and daughters, she made a consciousresolution to address a particular audience in her writing, which isher mom.
Ona personal level, I believe the title has a play on words. In thiscase, "MotherTongue"may not mean the language of our decent, but she may be making anaccount about her mother`s version of English: literally, hermother`s tongue. Tan, openly embraces her Chinese roots and lets heraudience in, on how important it is to her identity as a person. Inaddition, she shows us why her mother is the most amazing persondespite the kind of language she speaks.
Tan,A. (2002). Mother tongue. EnrichingESOL Pedagogy: Readings and Activities for Engagement, Reflection,and Inquiry, by Vivian Zamel, Ruth Spack. Lawrence Erlbaum, 431-435.