Mother Tongue by Amy Tan

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In the essay “Mother Tongue,” Amy Tan, an ethnic Chinese writer born and raised in the United States, shares her experiences with language difficulties. The article reminds me of hardships I faced when I first came to the United States. Tan discusses her mother’s grammar issues and the English dialogue without proper grammar between her mother and herself. Despite this, Tan showcases impeccable spoken English when communicating with others, delivering speeches, or writing.

Thus, the rationale behind her composition lies in this. I can personally relate to Tan’s encounters in various ways as I have also undergone many of the situations she describes. She commences her essay by affirming “I am a writer. And according to its definition, I have always possessed an adoration for language. Language captivates me within our daily lives. I devote substantial time contemplating its influential capabilities – its capacity to elicit emotions, construct vivid imagery, communicate intricate concepts, and convey straightforward truths. Language serves as the tool of my profession, and therefore, I employ all the Englishes that shaped my upbringing.

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Evidently, language holds immense significance in our everyday existence, particularly when traversing foreign territories. A vivid memory resurfaces wherein my family embarked on our initial overseas trip which entailed a brief vacation. During that period, my fluency in English only extended to basic phrases such as hello, how are you, thank you et cetera – effectively limited communication abilities at best.These instances left me astounded; it was then that I comprehended the vast array of languages present in our world and their practical functionality.

The undeniable reality remains that language exponentially aids connection among individuals and facilitates community formation.

Although language can be a powerful tool, it can also isolate individuals from their community. This is the case for both Tan’s mother and myself. I can relate to this essay because I also struggle to master English. When I first came here, speaking was a major challenge in my daily interactions. Despite receiving education in our country that included extensive English courses, the emphasis was primarily on reading, comprehension, and listening.

My struggle with vocabulary and pronunciation has made it challenging to express my ideas in English right away. This confusion continued during my initial days here. Moreover, grammar has hindered effective communication. As the essay writer points out, some friends can comprehend 50% of her mother’s words while others understand 80-90%. However, there are also individuals who cannot grasp any of it, as if she were speaking solely in Chinese.

She said that she fully agrees with that idea. Another problem that she is familiar with, based on Amy’s experience, is her inability to master English grammar well. This leads her to have some difficulty in conversing with others using complete sentences. While some native speakers can understand what she says, there are others who cannot. When this happens, she has to repeat her broken words many times and use different words, which makes her feel very embarrassed. The courses she has attended before always include exercises on reading and listening.

Due to this, my speaking practice is limited. Amy Tan expresses in her essay that she believes her mother’s English had a restrictive impact on her life. Sociologists and linguists may argue that a person’s language development is mostly influenced by peers. However, she believes that the language spoken within the family, particularly in insular immigrant families, greatly shapes a child’s language. Language environments are also crucial in English learning.

In China, we used to emphasize the importance of reading, listening, and writing. However, speaking English correctly requires practice with individuals who speak fluent English. This allows us to improve rapidly. Unfortunately, we lack a conducive language environment that enables us to practice spoken English with perfect grammar and pronunciation. Therefore, I believe it is essential to understand why Chinese people struggle with spoken English and address this issue in our education system.

Language is a crucial element in achieving quality education as it facilitates communication and comprehension in the classroom. In my country, English class is marked by the presence of various languages, yet the dominance of one foreign language in the education sector persists. This similarity hampers students’ ability to thrive as it fails to teach them essential skills. Numerous challenges contribute to this issue, including underqualified teachers, inadequately structured courses, inappropriate curriculum, and insufficient school facilities.

The cramming method of teaching and learning, particularly in foreign language teaching, is extremely challenging. It is unfortunate that the students are primarily focused on exam preparation and are unable to fully grasp the skills taught in class. In my experience with learning English, spoken communication has always been a major obstacle. Amy, a writer, expressed satisfaction with her book after her mother finished reading it and commented that it was easy to read. This is the ideal feedback that every writer hopes for. I hope to see more talented writers like Tan in the future.

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Mother Tongue by Amy Tan. (2016, Oct 20). Retrieved from

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