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"Mother Tongue" Project
Transcript of "Mother Tongue" Project
What words does Tan typically use to describe her mother's English?
According to Tan, what aspects of language do achievement tests fail to reveal?
Tan describes situations in which she was forced to act as a go-between for her mother, as in the anecdote in lines 80–91. Describe the roles of Tan and her mother in these situations. In what ways do these interactions differ from the typical mother-daughter relationship? Be specific in your answer.
Describe Tan’s changing perceptions of her mother’s use of English. In what way did her changing views toward her mother influence her observations about the power of language? Include details from the essay in your answer.
Tan claims that the language spoken within the family does more to shape the way a child speaks than the language spoken by his or her peers. Recall your answers to the opening activity on page 1205. Do you agree with Tan’s opinion? Why or why not?
By: Sree Jambunathan,
Julia Meng, and
"Mother Tongue" by Amy Tan
Background: Amy Tan
The Joy Luck Club
Born in 1952 in the San Francisco Bay area
Amy's brother and father died from brain tumors
She graduated from high school in Switzerland
Amy dedicates many of her books to her mother and grandmother
Short Scene from
The Joy Luck Club Movie
Tan describes her mother’s English as “simple,” “broken,” “fractured,” and “limited” (Tan 173).
People view Tan’s mother as inferior in society and as a less intelligent individual because in their view, she speaks English in a less cultured and proficient manner. They feel uncomfortable when she uses English, show her less respect, and even tend to be condescending.
In general, how did people react to Mrs. Tan's use of English?
What is the main idea of the entire essay? Explain your answer.
Tan believes that achievement tests don’t capture and reveal a person’s “intent, passion, imagery, rhythms of speech, and nature of thoughts” (Tan 178).
The main idea of the essay is to explore cultural differences- specifically, language barriers- and Tan’s personal experiences on the matter. She tries to identify exactly what role language plays in society.
Tan describes her mother’s English as “vivid, direct, full of observation and imagery.” Reread the story Tan’s mother tells in lines 39–48. Do you agree with Tan’s opinion of her mother’s speech? Why or why not?
In the situations where Tan must be a liaison, she has the upper hand, being more knowledgeable in how to effectively communicate in English. In that, Tan and her mother’s relationship deviates from the norm- the mother is seen is all-knowing and has the highest authority, especially when the children are young. Tan was only a teenager when she talked to her mother’s stockbroker, but she had to take on a lot more responsibility to help her mother.
Tan uses the expression “mother tongue” as the title of her essay. State the usual meaning of this expression. Then, use each of the following examples to develop a different or expanded meaning for this term:
• the idea of family talk (lines 28–30)
• Tan’s description of her mother’s speech (lines 55–58)
• Tan’s thoughts on language development (lines 107–110)
As a child, Tan is ashamed her mother’s inability to speak English proficiently, but gradually learns that this doesn’t affect her mother’s personality, courage, and intelligence. She observes how people treat her mother differently, and realizes that language influences communication and how one is perceived. Tan’s mother is treated without “any sympathy” (Tan 97) and the hospital “did not apologize” (Tan 96) when they lost her records, however when Tan speaks to them clearly in “perfect” English, they assured her the records would be found. Tan realizes grasp of a language commands respect and emotions.
The expression “mother tongue” generally means the first language a person learns.
-Idea of family talk: In reference to family talk, the mother tongue is the language that draws a group of people closer together. It is a huge bonding factor for families.
-Tan’s description: Tan feels like she can clearly understand what her mother says even though many may not understand her mother’s speech.
-Tan’s thoughts: Tan disagrees with expert opinions. She feels that the mother tongue is a form of language that parents teach their children that has emotional overtones.
Look at the essay again through the eyes of the following individuals. What important lessons about life and the uses of language might each draw from this essay? • an immigrant • the child of an immigrant • a doctor • a teacher
Although a child might speak like his/her peers, what a child says and how they say it is more affected by a parent. A certain amount of communication is mostly taught by parent. Kids may learn certain phrases and vernacular from peers, but emotions develop at an early age. We learn how to respond to peers but when if comes to speaking, we revert to many instincts taught by parents.
I would disagree with Tan's opinion, because the sentences her mother utilizes are very choppy and grammatically incorrect. This makes it more difficult for the reader to connect with her mother due to misunderstanding what she is trying to convey.
1.Compare Amy’s experiences to your own. How does culture influence the way you speak?
2. Amy Tan is considered an author at the forefront for imaging the “Chinese-American experience.” Are there any elements of her personal stories that relate to you? Explain.
3. Amy Tan was born in the 1950s and grew up throughout the 50s and 60s. How do you think stereotypes and experiences has changed from then to now?
Amy's own father had joined the Chinese communist party
Communism was very feared and persecuted in the US at this time
With the elapsing of WWII and Vietnam War, there was rampant racism against the Japanese, Chinese, and other Asian-Americans. They were seen as inferior and sub-human.
In the 50s and 60s, Civil Rights Movements for Asians burgeoned and demonstrations happened in San Francisco, California, and others.
An immigrant would think about this being his everyday life. A immigrant would think this day to be a hard-working day not only at work, but everywhere else including at the grocery store, with Americanized friends, and at restaurants.
Child of Immigrant -
Looking at the parent(who is an immigrant), the child would later on understand the hardships, but wouldn't experience it. The child would probably be embarrassed during the teenage years, but she or she would later on realize how crucial the hardships were in influencing his/her life.
A doctor would most likely try his/her best to understand what a immigrant would say through his/her thick accent and try to ameliorate the situation.
Because most teachers are very understanding, many would help a struggling human with the most of their abilities to improve that person's problems.
The story takes place mostly in America, although Tan later moves to Switzerland. English is prominently spoken in both regions, so Tan grows up with a strong foundation of English, whereas her mother didn't. Values, cultural barriers, and stereotypes are strongly influenced by the setting.
Point of View
: Tan writes her piece in first person in order to emphasize the hardships she has under gone. It helps the reader empathize with her and feel the way Tan felt when she was with her mother; it makes it more realistic since it's a personal essay.
: Tan uses language to represent the differences in culture and how she perceives life. It is the "tool of [her] trade" (Tan 1206). For instance, her mother is judged for speaking "broken" English, whereas everyone can comprehend Tan since she can speak it properly.
Amy uses rich descriptions to describe language- the "Englishes," and her situation, and what language should be about.
Amy often uses anecdotes to get her points across- ex. the New York stockbroker incident
Amy uses her experiences as a successful author to talk about her perspectives on language.
Amy tells the story of her mother, her late father and brother, and their immigrant experience to evoke sympathy, anger, and empathy.