Rhetorical Reading Response: Amy Tan’s “Mother Tongue” In the essay “Mother Tongue” by Amy Tan (1990), which discusses her mother’s way of speaking through “broken English”, Tan explores the different “Englishes” that she has come into contact with in her everyday life; these variations have presented struggles in her mother’s life. Tan illustrates this to her audience by giving examples of the struggles her mother was faced with due to “her” English and the many versions of English that surrounds Tan.
Tan examines the different versions of English people use in order to make the reader realize that English takes many different forms which leads to difficulty and confusion to those who are attempting to learn and speak the language like her mother. This work of literature is directed towards those who do not have an understanding of the variations of languages and the complications that come along with trying to learn a new language like English.
Although I do not have any experience growing up in a household that used a “broken” language, I can relate to Tan’s mother. In my attempt to learn Spanish, I struggled with every aspect of trying to not only speak it but also read, write, and comprehend the language. Through the understanding that learning a new language can be like trying to navigate your way through a dense jungle, I fully believe Tan’s point was for the good. I think that too many people discriminate in many different ways against anyone that dares not use perfect English.
I feel that America has a “fast food” mentality. By that, I simply mean that if one little thing slightly inconveniences someone they are too quick to be mean, judge, or even be rude by saying something uncalled for or even ignoring people. For example, I work in a grocery store, and many times I have examined my coworkers and have seen a sudden attitude change when someone comes through their line and speaks a “broken” form of English.
I have seen the customer fight the pain of being discriminated by trying to keep smiling, but it is evident it bothers them to be looked down upon. I think that Tan gives a very insightful look into the different variations in a language and the struggles that come along with it. Tan’s informative writing leads readers to the conclusion that they shouldn’t be too quick to judge when coming into contact with someone who struggles with English; there is no exception for discrimination anytime for any reason.
Tan makes the statement on page 65 that “my mother has long realized the limitations of her English as well,” and although this seems as if it is good that she understands there are limits, this could be viewed as negative. The author’s mother is settling with the mere fact that there is a limitation, but she shouldn’t have to settle. America should be the place of equal opportunity, not opportunity correlated with circumstances. Tan goes on to tell readers about the hassles that her mother had to go through to get even get doctors to take her seriously.
Not only did the struggles of speaking English affect her mother’s life, but Tan also found them showing up in her life. She tells us on page 63 that the English she uses to lecture and the English she uses with her mother vary, which could attribute to why she always did better in math and science. Tan makes the valid point “that Asian students, as a whole, always do significantly better on math achievement tests than in English” (67). Math is pure facts; there can only be 1 answer.
English is dependent on a judgment. Being surrounded by “broken” English in the home life could lead to some strewed judgment, but Tan seemed to like a challenge so she chose a career in the English field. Even though she saw a limitation, she pushed the bar higher, and that has made all the difference.