January 31, 2014
In the lecture of Amy Tan, “Mother Tongue” is described as the way in which language develops from location in which we are raised, and unconsciously we adapt our language with each group we socialize with in our lives. Tan describes herself as someone who is “fascinated by language in daily life. There was a specific moment in the text that Tan realizes that she is using different “Englishes” in different social contexts. Tan was giving a speech about her life, writing, and her book "The Joy Luck Club," to a group of scholarly people, but her mother was also present. It was at this time that she realized that her expressions were more academic, using more formal English, a language she had never used with her mother. Along with the lecture, she relates several examples of how her mother’s “Englishes” influenced her throughout her life, and how sometimes it was a barrier to communication. It ...view middle of the document...
" Tan wanted to avoid more complicated uses of the English language in order to ensure that her mother would understand what she was saying. Similarly, I have found myself in this situation several times. When I had just immigrated to the US, I initially lived with my parents-in-law, while my husband was away for training. During this initial time in the US, both of my parents-in-law knew that I had a limited grasp of English. My parents-in-law purposefully spoke more slowly than normal, and avoided the use of advanced expressions. Both Tan’s mother and I have had similar experiences.
Another example of when Tan’s mother’s English limited her was when she had to use her daughter in order to have conversations on the phone. Tan’s mother’s English was not proficient enough to allow her to effectively communicate over the phone. Tan frequently assisted her mother when she would use the telephone. Likewise, there was one day that I got a call from the dentist and I had to ask my 13 year brother-in-law to answer the questions for me. I remember that my English was more like “tell the dentist not appointment morning soon” and he replaced my singular phrase into another more peculiar like “Zaira says that she would like to have the appointment in the afternoon and as soon as possible please.” It was in moments like the one I described above, that I knew I did not want to have to depend on those around me for my English needs. I knew I had to do something to improve my English, it didn’t have to be perfect with perfect grammar, but at least I needed to be able to have a normal conversation.
In Tan’s text, she illustrates the difficulties that her mother had due to her abilities with the English language. Tan’s mother’s experiences are shared by many new immigrants to the US. I myself have dealt with many of the realities that Tan’s mother had to deal with. Tan’s mother’s required assistance from her daughter in a variety of situations. Likewise, at times I have utilized those around me when I have had difficulties communicating in English. The fact that Tan’s mother and I shared some experiences with our usage of English shows that this is an issue that still exists today. It also shows that this issue will undoubtedly continue for many new immigrants.