Mother Tongue By Amy Tan Essay

1122 words - 4 pages

English is an invisible gate. Immigrants are the outsiders. And native speakers are the gatekeepers. Whether the gate is wide open to welcome the broken English speakers depends on their perceptions. Sadly, most of the times, the gate is shut tight, like the case of Tan’s mother as she discusses in her essay, "the mother tongue." People treat her mother with attitudes because of her improper English before they get to know her. Tan sympathizes for her mother as well as other immigrants. Tan, once embarrassed by her mother, now begins her writing journal through a brand-new kaleidoscope. She sees the beauty behind the "broken" English, even though it is different. Tan combines repetition, cause and effect, and exemplification to emphasize her belief that there are more than one proper way (proper English) to communicate with each other. Tan hopes her audience to understand that the power of language- “the way it can evoke an emotion, a visual image, a complex idea, or a simple truth”- purposes to connect societies, cultures, and individuals, rather than to rank our intelligence.
Growing up in a bilingual family, Tan can hardly escape from encountering phrases such as “limited English” and “broken English” for countless times. She dislikes the phrases as she mentions, “it has always bothered me that I can think of no other way to describe it other than ‘broken,’ as if it were damaged and needed to be fixed, as it lacked of certain wholeness and soundness. I’ve heard other terms, ‘limited English,’ for example. However, they seem just as bad, as if everything is limited, including people’s perceptions of limited English speaker” (634). People raise and teach their children the definition of “limited” as imperfect, “damaged and needed to be fixed," thus whatever associates with the word become negative. They allow the word to blindfold their vision on non-native speakers, assuming that non-native speakers are less intellectual, or rather inferior, because they do not know how to express their thoughts in perfect English. In addition, Tan also describes “limited” as “lacked of certain wholeness and soundness" she is actually stressing on the issue of people ignoring non-native speakers’ voices, pretending they are mute and deaf. Tan manipulates such a common, but influential word-limited- to imply her disappointment how people’s perceptions are just as limited as broken English. Tan then converts her feeling to action; she attempts to raise the awareness in society, not to look over somebody just because he or she cannot speak English. In doing so, readers slowly reflect their own behaviors toward immigrants; they should not apply any unfair assumptions on broken English speakers because they are no better than anyone but a judgmental freak.
In order to tighten her persuasion, Tan shows the consequence of people judging her mother’s English through the rhetorical device-cause and effect. In her early years of writing, Tan uses great English and...

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