Mother Tongue and Language Use in Family and Society
“Mother Tongue”, by Amy Tan and “Language Use in Family and Society”, by Lee Thomas and Linh Cao, are two examples of how language is important in communication, even if the members of the family may be speaking a language other than English. Language is important to these two authors and it is what brings each family member closer to another, however, they approach the language differently. For Tan and her mother, language is very special. It is what brings them closer and is something that is unique for the both of them. Thomas and Cao also believe language has power to strengthen relations, but for Cao’s family, language is keeping them apart and not as close as they thought it should be. Even though Tan and Thomas/Cao have similar ideas about language being a major role in a family, these three authors experienced language spoken in a house differently.
“Mother Tongue” introduces the idea that language can be understood, even if it isn’t the standard English spoken. Tan’s mother is Chinese, so her mother’s speech is not really up to par like most other Americans. With her speech not being fully clear, the other people tend to mistreat her. For example, a stockbroker in New York was being rude just because of her “limited” language. As for Tan, she is a writer, and can speak English really well around others, but when she is with her mother her language changes. She speaks like her mother so her mother will not feel uncomfortable, and when they do speak “broken language”, Tan is not ashamed of it anymore, where she use to be long time ago. Tan is not ashamed because she feels this type of language is what brings her and her mother closer together. Tan also says, “It becomes our language of intimacy, a different sort of English that relates to family talk, the language I grew up with”(Tan, 36). Tan is saying any form of English, can be spoken as long as the other person can relate to it.
On the other hand, Lee Thomas and Linh Cao feel that “Families can be separated by language use and by changes in cultural perspectives” (Thomas and Cao, 61). Caos' family comes from four different language backgrounds (Hainese, Mandarin, Vietnamese, and English), and it is very difficult for family members to communicate with each other, especially when the Caos’ brother and sisters have to speak to their parents and grandparents because both of them have very little knowledge of the English language. Therefore, in order to communicate with one another they tried combining words from the four types of language they have, hoping this could be a way for them to have a conversation. However, eventually this just made the conversation even more difficult because there would be a lot of words being said the wrong way. Therefore their communication was just not working out and it made it hard for the family members to get close to one another.