English is a difficult language to learn for Non-Native Speakers. There are a plethora of words that mean multiple things with meanings that change every day. Itr’s hard to keep up if itr’s not one’s mother tongue. Mother tongue is a language that a person has grown up speaking within their respective household. For Amy Tan, it was a special kind of English. An English that a Native English speaker would call broken or limited. Amy Tan is an Asian American woman who immigrated from Shanghai, China, to the United States with her mother. She is the author of her best-known novel The Joy Luck Club which examines the lives and relationships between four Chinese American daughters and their mothers. In Mother Tongue, Amy Tan points out cultural racism and the difficulties communication has on immigrants living in America. She uses a sympathetic yet defensive tone as she talks about her motherr’s language and what it means to her as well as showing the audience the challenges sher’s faced.
Tan delivers a talk at a symposium on language in San Francisco where she expresses her views and experiences with English. She talks about the complexities of the language and the different types of English she hears and uses in her day to day life. Therer’s a specific style of English she uses with her mother, one she uses on outings, another with her husband, and one her mother constantly uses with her. She says, It has become our language of intimacy, a different sort of English that relates to family talk, the language I grew up with. (Tan 650) For Amy Tan, this language has a special place in her heart but for others, it leads to a sense of confusion.
When analyzing her motherr’s English, Amy Tan doesnt shy away from the difficulties it has aroused. In one example, she talks about how people perceive her motherr’s English regardless of all the hard work she puts into it. She says, Yet some of my friends tell me they understand 50 percent of what my mother says. Some say they understand 80 to 90 percent. Some say they understand none of it, as if she were speaking pure Chinese. (Tan 651).
Here, Amy Tan uses a personal experience as support. Her friends are Native speakers and dont entirely understand her mother because of a communication barrier. This shows just how complex and difficult the situation is. Since sher’s grown up around it, Tan faces no difficulty when it comes to understanding her mother, but for others, the communication skill seems flawed.
Amy Tan gets very in-depth when it comes to details of her past. She talks about the time when she was fifteen and how her mother would have her call people on the phone so that shed pretend it was her. She talks about how no one ever took her mother seriously and she was there to witness it all. Tan recounts,
the fact that people in department stores, at banks, and at restaurants did not take her seriously, did not give her good service, pretended not to understand her, or even acted as if they did not hear her. (Tan 651) Tan, once again, uses her experiences as credibility that strengthens her appeal on Ethos. With this passage alone, she shows how vulnerable and how difficult life is for her mother.
Tan then goes on to talk about the Asian American community and how English relates to their field of choice. She states, but I have noticed in surveys- in fact, just last week- that Asian students, as a whole, always do significantly better on math achievement test than in English. And this makes me think that there are other Asian American students whose English spoken in the home might also be described as broken or limited. And perhaps they also have teachers who are steering them away from writing and into math and science, which is what happened to me. (Tan 654) This supports her claim as she talks about how deeply the language spoken at home can affect the children. Tan shows just how prejudice people can be. Instead of helping and refining their English, the teachers are so adamant to push them in another field where they dont need to work as hard. Society doesnt give these kids a platform to grow and, instead, take them for granted.
When it really boils down to it, Amy Tan doesnt really use logistics to support her claim. The things listed above aren’t factual and are based more on the author’s inferences. Her story doesnt need logistics since she proves her credibility through her personal experiences which seems to be more beneficial in this case.
For the majority of her piece, Tan uses a strong pathos appeal as support. When she talks about growing up with her mother, she never fails to tell her audience how she feels. Amy Tan makes sure the audience can empathize with her, a tactic she uses to set everyone on the same playing field. Her pathos appeal is evident when she talks about how her mother was treated because of the way she spoke.
After being previously diagnosed with a benign brain tumor, Tanr’s mother goes back to the hospital to check up on her diagnosis. She said she had spoken her very best English yet they claimed that her CAT scan was missing. Tan says, and when the doctor finally called her daughter, me, who spoke in perfect English- lo and behold- we had assurances the CAT scan would be found, promises that a conference call on Monday would be held, and apologies for any suffering my mother had gone through for a most regrettable mistake. (Tan 652) Even though she doesnt outwardly state how she feels, she makes it pretty evident that she is frustrated and heavily confused about the situation. Her tone shows frustration which helps the audience sympathize with her. Because of this, people can put themselves in her shoes. She then goes on to talk about her childhood experiences with her mother and how her mother’s English affected the way she did things when she was younger.
Amy Tan would always find herself answering phone calls for her mother and even became less confident in herself because of it. This is shown earlier in the selection when she reflects on the time her mothers English made her feel ashamed. She realizes the challenges sher’s faced because of the way her mother spoke. Tan states, I know for a fact, because when I was growing up, my motherr’s limited English limited my perception of her. I was ashamed of her English. (Tan 651) Here Tan shows the struggles her motherr’s English had brought upon her. It gave her a low self-esteem and, instead of encouraging her mother, she was disheartened. She later becomes apologetic, showing that she too struggled to overlook the language barrier and took part of the cultural racism that flourished within this field.
Towards the end of the text, she wraps it up as she talks about her book. When she created her novel The Joy Luck Club, she kept her mother in mind. She said she wanted to use all the English she grew up with to preserve and capture the essence that neither can be seen within an English nor a Chinese structure. She says, I wanted to capture what language ability tests can never reveal: her intent, her passion, her imagery, the rhythms of her speech and the nature of her thoughts. (Tan 655) Here, sher’s learned that through all the struggle and uncertainty, her motherr’s English is something that she holds onto dearly. Itr’s been ground rooted and loved since birth and just like any other personality trait, itr’s something that makes that special woman her mother.
Overall, Amy Tan was successful in pronouncing her point and educating Native Speakers about the struggles immigrants face when it comes to communication. She has shown that there are many people like her mother who are experiencing these things and how this dominates the lives of every immigrant around the world. She engages her audience in a pot of stories, using her personal experiences as credibility for her claim. Amy Tan is also not afraid to show how vulnerable she was and still is when it comes to this subject manner. This language brought her closer together with her mother and her culture. Sher’s learned not to be ashamed of who she is and has embraced it for all those to see. Her speech is an aid for those who are experiencing the same thing. In conclusion, Amy Tan successfully encouraged her audience to look beyond language barriers and expresses to live and appreciate immigrants open heartedly and happily.
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