Amy Tan's Mother Language

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1. Amy Tan is clever in the way that she uses the words “mother tongue.” She never outright expresses what is meant by the phrase, thus she leaves it up to her readers to decide what “mother tongue” refers to; be it the language of Tan’s mother, the language Tan feels most comfortable using, her own first language, or any combination of those things.

3. Throughout the essay, Tan recalls how she uses “different englishes” based on who she interacts with. From page 700 to 701, she mentions two types of English that she uses; One is a professional way of speaking that she reserves for “giving a talk to a large group of people.” She describes this form of English as one that is “full of nominalized forms, past perfect tenses, conditional phrases,
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In Tan’s essay, she claims that her “mother’s English almost had an effect on limiting my possibilities in life as well” (para. 15). When she says that her possibilities in life were limited, she is refers to the way her mother speaks English and how it impacted her own way of speaking. Growing up, she was constantly exposed to her mother’s “broken English” and begun to associate it with the proper way to speak the language. This made an such a profound impact on her language that she did not perform as well in English as she did in science and math classes. Her teachers decided to steer her away from English, and the possibility of her becoming a writer shrank significantly. This is often true for many who end up speaking a non-standardized English in the United States; they are seen as unable to do certain things such as become writers or public speakers. Only when these non-standardized English speakers trains themselves to speak “perfect English” are they seen as successful “scholars of English or literature” in the eyes of the public.

6. Tan performed poorly on English tests because she could not picture the semantic relationships within the analogues. She did not think that way. Her Chinese influenced way of thinking caused her to see images instead of relationships. The only way she found complete the analogies was through “an associative situation, for example, my being disobedient and staying out pat sunset, catching a chill at night, which turns into a feverish
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Tan opens her essay by recounting that she does not consider herself a “scholar of English or literature.” This is because she does not write in a “scholarly way.” She doesn't apply the traditional or scholarly way of writing; using complicated vocabulary, nominalizations, and pretentious diction. Her English is simple. Sometimes it does not conform to the the standard way of speaking English, thus it is not thought of as true scholarly English. However, Tan is still a published author. By choosing to write for personal reasons rather than academic reasons, she establishes some credibility with her audience. She assured them that she writes not to deceive, but to tell, which a generally quality that most audiences
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