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    Literature Review of “Mother Tongue” by Amy Tan

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    Amy Tan argues that her mother’s broken English affected her day to day life; she says that she came to a realization that she used different forms of English depending on whether she was in a formal or informal setting. By using her relationship with her mother, she shows how her mother’s knowledge of English impacted their situations and life in general. The primary objective of this paper is to analyze how Tan structures her essay to be able to express her ideas, personal opinions, and deliver her intended message to her audience.

    In the beginning, Tan was very ashamed of her mother’s broken English and she tried as much as possible not to speak the same as her. Later on, she realized that she was beating herself up too much and that her mother’s dialect did not define her intelligence. She supports this by explaining how her mother could listen to programs, converse with people and read with a very good understanding of the subjects at hand

    Despite being a non-native English speaker, Amy took it upon herself to master the English Language to the extent of making a living through lecturing and writing. This shows that she is an exceptionally qualified English speaker and writer. She was able to defy all the discouragements she received from her teachers in school who urged her to pursue sciences and math instead. Even though she is very eloquent, she also includes what she refers to as ‘her mother’s broken English’ in her text; quoting her exact words to preserve the inherent nature of the essay.

    In writing her essay, Tan uses a very informal and reflective tone mostly by using the first-person narrative form. She vividly describes a lot of her personal experiences in detail to validate her arguments and show the effect her mother’s English had on each particular context. For instance, she explains the incident where she had to impersonate her mother to call the bank to demand her cheque since her mother had called several times but only got excuses. This explanation shows how the confrontation actually played out by creating an ideal image of the situation in the reader’s mind and also makes the essay more relatable.

    In her unique style of structuring the essay, she includes a lot of illustrations and comparisons to explicate her points. For instance, she juxtaposes Math and English. According to her, Math is more precise and has only one answer as compared to English which is more general and has so many possible answers; she even cited common examples she encountered on English tests. Apart from that, she also compares the English she previously used to write (structured and precise) to the one she adopted (the English she grew up with) and acknowledges that the one she currently uses allows her to express her thoughts, intent, and imagery more effectively to her readers.

    In addition to that, Tan also explains that language is a very powerful instrument which we should use to share our experiences and express ourselves. She insists that people should not be ashamed of their broken English; they should embrace it instead and find ways of using it effectively. Tan considers the English she uses with her mother and husband an element that brings them closer because only they can fully understand one another without any difficulty. She also uses satire to express the differences between the English she was taught in school and the one she uses with her mother. Despite grasping what she was taught in school and even more, she is unable to use it at home because her mother will not be able to comprehend anything she said.


    All in all, Tan has shown how mother-tongue affects how we master a new language by using herself and her personal experiences with anecdotal explanations. It is often improved or worsened by a person’s academic qualifications and abilities to communicate thoughts and ideas. Therefore language learners need to put this into consideration in the process of learning a language. Tan has expressed her mastery in differentiating the different types of English; how she uses both proper English and the one she grew up within her writing. She has successfully delivered her essay since her mother was her main target.

    This essay was written by a fellow student. You may use it as a guide or sample for writing your own paper, but remember to cite it correctly. Don’t submit it as your own as it will be considered plagiarism.

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    Literature Review of “Mother Tongue” by Amy Tan. (2021, Jul 30). Retrieved from

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