“Mother tongue” by Amy Tan, reading response

While reading “mother tongue”, the author uses the term englishes and what I can infer from reading the article is that what she means is the different types of English she uses depending on who she is talking to. She describes one of the englishes as the language you use when talking to family, the one she personally grew up with and learned from her mom at home. The other is a english she learned from schools and books. She describes and calls the first english as her “mothers tongue”, the language she relates to her mother that can be called broken or limited english but to the author, her mothers english is full of observation and imagery even while other describe it hard to understand. As you read the article you come to learn that when the author was younger, she was ashamed of her mothers language because it perceived her as having limited understanding and caused a lot of trouble for her mother with people treating her differently. In the authors point of view it limited possibilities for herself, but as she grew up she wasn’t so ashamed and that can be shown by her embracing her mothers english by writing her drafts with her mothers tongue. As a reader, I believe the author wrote this article to shine light on how children of immigrants have essentially, two englishes. With that being said I also believe that her target audience is children of immigrants whos first language isn’t English.

My relationship with languages is that I definitely have different types of English I use depending on who I am talking to. Through text, I make a lot of errors using improper grammar and abbreviations because for me texting is something to do fast and not think to much on grammar as long as the message is clear. When it comes to spoken language, I find myself using different types. With close family like my mother and father, I use mostly Spanish with some English thrown in here and there, that is most commonly known as spanglish. Even though I grew up in a household speaking Spanish, because my parents are immigrants making me and my brother first generation, I found myself always using full English when talking to my brother and cousins. It pains me to admit that the reason behind that is because I feel more comfortable and am more fluent in English even though I grew up speaking Spanish until I entered kindergarten. Like the author, that doesn’t mean I am an expert on the English language because my grammar could use some fixing and I find myself forgetting the English words to some things like for example blender, which was a recent one, I had the Spanish word but could not remember the English translation. It was actually my mother who reminded me what the word was.

1 Comment

  1. Rebekah Coleman

    Catherine, you provide an excellent description of what you think Amy Tan means when she uses the term “mother tongue” and you also describe so beautifully what she means by “having many Englishes.” I would love it if you could bring this up in our discussion today! I love how you describe Tan’s intended audience and I love how you describe your personal relationship with English and Spanish. Thanks!

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