Mother Tongue Critical Analysis

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Amy Tan’s book, “Mother Tongue,” majorly focuses on the significance of language on the social life of an individual. Tan recognizes that language is not only used as a tool for communication but also as a determinant of one’s social life (Tan, 2005). She uses her mother as the primary critic in the book. Amy Tan’s mother had difficulties in speaking proper English,and as a result, she was looked down upon by other people. English was not Tan’s mother first language,and that would explain why she used broken English which seriously affected her social life as well as her daughter’s social life. There are several aspects in Amy Tan’s book that I can compare and contrast with my personal life experience. The themes of fitting in and cultural background primarily affected Tan’s life,and I experienced the same as I experienced them in my own life. The specific life experiences that compare and contrast with Tan’s ‘Mother Tongue’ are discussed in the essay.

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Tan’s mother was looked down upon by others in the society because of the way she spoke English. Her grammar was not correct which made others not take her speeches seriously. People could ignore her,and it was because her language was different from others. I grew up in a state where English was not a primary language as people in that society used their mother tongue to communicate in most cases (Tan, 2005). I only learned English at school,and it was not frequently used. As I result, I used broken English for communication and thought that I was speaking English the way it was supposed to be used. When I was ten years old, we migrated to a different state in America where English was the primary language of communication. When I joined a new school, my classmates always thought that I was making fun of speaking broken English. Hence, they never considered anything I said seriously. My teachers also felt that I was becoming a nuisance by using a language that was not proper. Just like Tan’s mother, anything I said to other people was not taken into consideration because of broken English.

Tan describes the way her mother acknowledged the fact that she spoke broken English and used poor grammar (Tan, 2005). She knew that her language was different and that was the reason why her communication with others was ridiculed most of the time. In contrast, I always got angry when others thought that I was making fun of the king of English that I spoke. At first, I did not know that I used broken English for communication and this was because my parents never corrected my English. Later on, I came to learn that my grammar was not proper and felt terrible for being ridiculed at that. I was afraid of speaking to people who were not used to my broken English. On the other hand, Tan’s mother was not scared and instead she could insist on using her language until people understood what she was talking about (Tan, 2005). Hence, I was different from Tan’s mother since I never acknowledged my weakness in the use of English language for communication.

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Both Tan’s mother and I have been victims of ignored serious situations due to the language barrier. Tan narrates how her mother had brain trauma and went to the hospital,but no one attended to her because of her broken English. Her mother’s medical condition needed attention since it was the same disease that led to the death of her husband and son (Tan, 2005). She was ignored,and it was only after Tan went to her rescue and communicated in good English that she was able to get attention. When I was in middle school, I was playing in the fields with peers and had a fracture in my foot. I tried communicating with the people who were around,but they could not take what I was saying seriously. I could not walk back home; other kids left me in the field with a fractured leg. However, when my mother came looking for me, she finally understood what I was saying and took me to hospital. Hence, the language barrier was a cause of ignorance in both my life and Amy Tan’s mother’s life.


Amy Tan’s book has several instances that directly compares and contrasts with my personal life experiences. Amy Tan’s mother used broken English and improper grammar due to the influence of Chinese as her first language. I also had difficulty in using correct grammar since I was raised with English as my second language. Both Amy Tan’s mother and I could be ignored by people even when what we said was serious. Both of us had medical conditions that needed attention,but no one could attend to us because we did not use proper language. However, Amy’s mother and I differ in that she accepted her condition and did not get angry when others did not understand or ignored her when she talked. Unlike her, I never accepted that my language was different from the way others communicated and therefore, I got angry when I was ridiculed about my language. These situations compare Amy Tan’s “Mother Tongue” to my personal life experiences.

Did you like this sample?
  1. Tan, A. (2005). Mother Tongue, by Amy Tan. The World Is a Text: The Writing, Reading, and Thinking about Culture and Its Contexts.
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