Homework 3 – “Mother Tongue” by Amy Tan

Name ________________________ Date _____________




Homework 3: “Mother Tongue” by Amy Tan

  1. What did you think of the piece? Did you like it? Or not? Why? Explain! (Don’t worry my feelings won’t be hurt! Be honest!)
  2. What is it mostly about? Write a 2-4 sentence summary. What is the THEME? How does she explore the theme throughout the essay? Be specific. Refer to the text itself. Use quotes even! 
  3. Amy Tan writes, “Recently, I was made keenly aware of the different Englishes I do use.” What does she mean by this? What different “Englishes” does she use? When does she use them?
  4. What does Tan mean when she uses the term “mother tongue?”  How does her “mother tongue” shape her identity?
  5. How does Tan describe her mother’s English? Be specific! How does Tan’s perception of her mother’s language change when she realizes how her mother’s English is viewed by others? What does this reveal about the power dynamics of language? 
  6. How does Tan’s own experience with English differen from her mother’s? How has her upbringing and education affected her relationship with language? 
  7. Think about your relationship to the languages in your life. Describe at least two different languages or forms of language that you use either in speaking or writing. For example, when you text or email vs. when you speak. Or when you speak to a family member vs. a friend. Or a professor vs. a friend. Does it change depending on your audience? How? Why?


  1. Karyll Aina

    “Mother Tongue” by Amy Tan is a writing piece I really enjoyed. Being able to relate to an author makes me more interested in what I’m reading. I liked how Tan was able to connect the message she was trying to get across to her personal experiences which made the writing piece more sincere and relatable to individuals like myself. 

    Amy Tan takes us into her life and her relationship with the English language, rather the different ‘Englishes’. Tan, as a writer, is able to express herself  in proper English, while in contrast speaks ‘limited English’ when she speaks with family and most importantly, her mother. Tan states, “…a speech filled with carefully wrought grammatical phrases, burdened, it suddenly seemed to me, with nominalized forms, past perfect tenses, conditional phrases-all the forms of standard English that I had learned in school and through books, the forms of English I did not use at home with my mother” shows her understanding of the difference and code switch she experiences with the English language. 

    When  Tan writes, “Recently, I was made keenly aware of the different Englishes I do use.”, she is trying to express how there’s a different way she speaks english based on who she’s speaking with. The ‘proper’ English or the English she was taught in school is when she’s speaking to everyone else besides her mother. With Tan’s mother, she speaks a much rather ‘broken’ English that her mother perfectly understands. 

    When Tan uses the term, “Mother tongue”, it is often referring to the version of English that she and her mother use to understand one another. To others. They may view it as ‘limited or broken English’, but to Tan, it’s an important version of English to her as it is the language she uses with her mother. 

    Tan describes her mothers language as ‘limited or broken’. Tan never realized the contrast in how people treated them when she was the one speaking up versus when it was her mother, until she witnessed it herself. Other people never took her mother seriously because she wasn’t able to express her wants and needs in a way other people would understand. This shows how powerful the English language is and how you can be treated differently based on your abilities to express yourself and others’ understanding of it.

    Tan was able to learn ‘proper’ English in school with all its technicalities and rules while her mother didn’t have the same opportunity as she did. During her upbringing, English wasn’t one of her stronger topics in school and she believed that the version of English she speaks at home with her mother had an effect on ‘limiting her possibilities in life’. 

    I can relate to Tan in this writing piece because I too speak a different version of English when I speak with my peers vs. my parents. I often speak “Taglish” or tagalog and English when i’m speaking with my parents. I don’t do this because of the lack of knowledge of the English language, but rather to be able to practice my language from my motherland. Moving to America at a really young age, I grew apart from my roots and being able to practice my native tongue with my language with the occasional correction of how to properly speak it from my parents, is really important to me and something I’ve been doing for most of my life.

  2. Willdarlyn Martinez

    1) What I thought of the piece “Mother Tongue” was that it was very interesting and I liked it because I feel like people can relate to it.

    2) The text is mostly about a mother and daughter and how the English barrier has impacted them. She started by explaining how with her mother she speaks a different type of English that she speaks with other people. The theme is that no matter the language barrier success can be guaranteed.

    3) What she means by this is that she uses different types of English around different people. The type of English that she would use around her loved ones would be non formal but in a different environment she would use formal english.

    4) What Tan means when she uses the term “mother tongue” is that she understands her mother and thinks that she speaks perfect English. Tan said that it shapes her identity because it shaped the way that she saw things, expressed things and how it made sense of the world.

    5) Tan described her mothers English by saying that its “broken” or “fractured” and she used to be embarrassed by it. Tan’s viewing changed on her English seeing how she would get treated just because of the way that she spoke the language. What this reveals of the power dynamics of the language would be that you will be judged if you don’t speak a certain way.

    6) Tan’s experience is different from her mothers because she wouldn’t get treated the same way because she didn’t have an accent and spoke the language fluently. Her upbringing and education affected her relationship with language because she was able to learn at a young age to speak it.

    7) I would say that my language definitely changes depending on the audience because when I speak to my friends compared to how I speak to my professors they are very different. I talk formally and when it comes to speaking to my professors but with my friends I speak with Slang and catchphrases.

  3. Samantha Ismael

    1.Mother tongue by Amy tan is a good piece of writing because a lot of people could relate to this writing and people could connection with the author about this piece of writing.

    2.This piece of writing is about Amy Tan’s relationship with the English language and the ways she was growing up too. According to the article, it’s said, “I am a writer. And by that definition, I am someone who has always loved language. I am fascinated by language putong, the river east side, he belong to in daily life. I spend a great deal of my time thinking about the power of language the way it can evoke an emotion, a visual image, a complex idea, or a simple truth.truth. Language is the tool of my trade. And I use them all-all the Englishes I grew up with.”This is showing how much Amy Tan loves to write and the love of the English language. The theme of the piece of writing “mother tongue” is how people in societies judge other people by the way they talk. From the piece of writing, it states: “But I do think that the language spoken in the family, especially in immigrant families, which are more insular, plays a large role in shaping the language of the child. And I believe that it affected my results on achievement tests, IQ tests, and the SAT.” This means that immigrant families are mostly likely to have problems with English.

    3.When Amy Tan say “Recently, I was made keenly aware of the different Englishes I do use.” Amy Tan is trying to say there is a difference in Englishes.

    4.When Amy tan mean when she uses the term “mother tongue” Amy Tan’s mother’s English wasn’t that good, so it was a struggle for her to speak English. and when her mother spoke English, people couldn’t understand her. English is not her first language.

    5.The ways Amy Tan described her mother in English were broken. from the piece of writing its state “the English I spoke to my mother, whichl for lack of a better term, might be described as “simple”; the English she used with me,which for lack of a better term might be described as “broken”; my translation of her Chinese, which could certainly be described as “watered down”;

    6.Amy Tan’s mother struggles with speaking English. That’s why Amy Tan always has to help her mother communicate with other people. But on the other hand, Amy Tan could speak English clearly.

    7.I would say that the way I speak to people is completely different. The way I speak to my friends differs from the way I speak to my family members and my professors. When I talk to my friends, we cuss and we speak in slang, but on the other hand, when I speak to my family members and my professors, I speak professionally.

  4. Ilya Babaev

    1. i liked mother tounge because I feel like others can relate to it and people can relate to it.
    2. the essay is about someone’s identity and relationship. it shows how a language barrier can affect the relationship between a Parent and a child. it also shows that even though there was a language barrier they were able to overcome the language barrier and stay close.
    3. I think that amy is trying to say that parents that learn a new language switch up the words and make it a different type of English than the actual English
    4. Amy tan means mother tounge because it is not her first language so people were not able to fully understand them so it is her type of english and not her first language.

    6 Amys mom struggles to speak English so Amy helps her mom communicate with other people because Amy has good English compared to her mother.

    7 The way I speak to my friend’s family and teachers is very different from each other. When I speak to my family I speak to them in Russian because my family understands that language better and when I speak with my friends I use both languages because my friends understand both of them and as for my teachers I use English because most of them only understand English or another language I don’t understand

  5. Ilya Babaev

    1. i enjoyed the peace from mother tongue because i was able to relate to it in way other families can relate to.
    2. The essay is about the relationship with a mother and her child. it is about how even though they both have a language barrier with each other they are able to overcome whatever problem they have.
    3. Amy is trying to say that each parent that learned the language had their own Englises.
    4. Amy uses the term mother tongue because her mother’s English isn’t the best, so it was pretty difficult for her to speak the language because people weren’t able to understand her. because of the way she pronounced her words and English is not her main or first language.

    6 Amy tans mother struggles to speak English so most of the time Amy helps her mother communicate with others.

    7 I speak to my professors with respect and in English since most of them only understand English. when i speak to my friends we curse and use inappropriate words. where as with my parents i speak Russian with them because it is like a tradition

  6. aromero

    1. This piece is alright, and I would say I liked it. The author had made certain connections with people through her experiences along the way. It’s very touching even, considering the frequency of this.

    2. This piece is mainly about the authors perspective on the English language and also the limitations she had seen growing up. The theme of this piece is that the people can have certain views on you depending on how you talk in a certain language. An example of this is when Amy’s mother had to get her CAT scan results, when the results were lost her mother had claimed there was no empathy shown for this mistake.

    3. In this statement, when Amy mentioned different “englishes” to use, she meant the certain kinds of English she would speak around certain people, like to her mother, or at school.

    4. When Amy mentions “mother tongue,” she means the English that her mother speaks in, one that she can understand and talk in. It shaped her identity by having a great influence on how she spoke English overall.

    5. Amy views her mother’s English as broken, even limited. Her perspective changed on her mother’s language over time from experiences with other people, she slowly considers it as not the best. This reveals that depending on how you speak English, you may be judged for it due to the way you might’ve expressed yourself.

    6. Amy’s experience with English differs from her mother’s experience by not having similar circumstances in certain scenarios compared to her mother. Throughout her life, she was able to learn English in school, yet it wasn’t her one of her strong points. It could’ve been limiting on her if she had learned her mother’s English more and more.

    7) Forms of language that I use to speak or write can differ whether I’m talking to my parents or peers amongst myself. Even so, it can also differ if I’m talking or texting, typing, etc. Sometimes, I just dumb down lots of messages when texting, regardless of if it’s English or Spanish. When I’m talking, it’s a lot easier to just say things how they are since it can be fast to pronounce or say out loud. It all depends on who I am talking to, I want to get whatever I want across. I simply just want to get a point across most of the time.

  7. Yutzill Hernandez

    1. Honestly reading this article shows that some people can relate to this article. Like relationships wise.
    2. The article talks about a relationship with a mother and daughter and their language. Tan states, “my mothers english is perfecttly clear, perfectly natural. It’s my mothers tongue.” Tan starts to give more thoughts to her mothers english. She realizes immigrants parents to migrated to the US have their English slightly different, and she loves her mothers English.
    3. What tan means is that, depending on her surroundings her English might be different.
    4. When tan states “her mothers tongue” she means her mothers english might be different of how she speaks and others do. Her mother has a slightly different English.
    5. Tan describes her mothers english as “broken”. She states “I can think of no way to describe it other than ‘broken’ as if it was damaged or couldn’t be fixed.” Tan describes it as broken because it isn’t perfect english but she still speaks it.
    6. amy Helps her mother communicate because her English isn’t so perfect. This can be related to a real life situation too. My mother doesn’t speak perfect English so in situations i help my mom out.
    7. I speak English different to people, Meaning sometimes i use short words or long words. For example for friends i do more short words and not proper words like i use for my professors. I use respectful word with professors and with friends we cuss and use slag words.
  8. Abubakary11

    I think this piece was interesting because I do kinda relate to the story in the sense of how my mom speaks parents speak English. English wasn’t my parents initial language and they have an apparent accent which some people may find it hard to understand but never has been an issue for me to understand similar to Amy tan description

    The story is about language and how it has had a negative affect and a positive affect in Amy Tan’s life. Being that her mom English in which she used to refer to as broken limited her education in school in English particularly. And her overcoming and challenging herself which lead to her becoming an English major and writing her own story. I think the theme in this story is how her moms English influenced her perception and others  because she constantly states how her mom would have bad interactions with people like her manager and the hospital managers due to her language but as soon as she steps up the problem is resolved, she also state show if influenced her education and limited her ways of English but later own acknowledged the beauty of her moms language, the passion, the intent and the nature of her thoughts which test scores couldn’t measure.

    What she means by that is that she became councouis in the different forms of englishes she uses in certain circumstances, she uses formal English and English that she is accustom to when she with her mother. She speaks formally with perfect grammar when she’s in a public settings or speeches and she speaks the English that is influenced by her mother.

    What’s he mean by “mother tongue” is that her mothers language doesn’t have an issue and it’s great as it is, she has her own perception of her language and filled with her own ideas, it shapes her identity because it shapes her as a Chinese person and overcoming challenges by external factors.

    She initially described her moms English as broken and limited, I think it influenced her perception because she viewed her moms English as natural and suitable for her with imagery and observation but her perception change because she later sees other people point of view of her language and how it isn’t to what they perceive to be proper which influenced Amy tan to strive for an aptitude in English

    Amy Tan’s English experience differs from her mother in a way of interaction. As we know Amy tan’s mother was viewed negatively because of her broken English, interactions with other people didn’t go well based on how she spoke, Amy Tan’s case was different on how she resolved her moms matters because of how well she spoke.

    I think her upbringing and education affected her relationship with language because of her self perception and others perception, I think as she seen how people viewed her mothers language as broken it affected the way she spoke and that also led her to persist in her education of English and led her to view her moms language as beautiful.

    I think the relationship in my language is a bit similar in this case because initially I never found an issue with my parents English as well and thought it was perfect and can understand everything they were asserting. Most of my friends were from the same country as well so they could understand well but as I grew older and viewed others perception on my parents language it influenced mine as well. Two different forms of language when I write and speak is probably standard and formal, occasionally I do try to speak formally and speak with appropriate words without grammar but it’s something I’m not accustomed to and find it challenging but as I write I find it much more easier to assert in a much more formal way.

  9. IvoLes

    This piece of writing sucked, it was to long and from her writing and how she write I didn’t learn anything important. I hope we don’t get hw this long to read ever again. This piece of writing is about a Chinese women who love the art of speaking, she loves languages and the fact that how you speak using a language can create a high level of understanding or swaying and describing to an audience. the theme of Mother tongue is two worlds, where like the narrator is explaining her mother’s English and how bad it is. When Amy said she was eagerly aware of the type of English she used she meant her way of using English for example in the text in the second paragraph she said “Just last week, I was walking down the street with my mother, and I again found myself conscious of the English I was using, the English I do use with”(Tan 7) Mother tongue to Tan means she has taken her mother English this Shapes her identity in a way that it shows she is from her Chinese mother because she can speak to and understand her mother, although her mothers English is very incomplete many mistakes in her phrases, her perspective towards her mother changes because her mother English was bad and incomplete because so, she had to talk for her, the sad reality is that you can learn how to say words in a language but because you cant form the right words there would be no way everyone will understand your perspective or what you are trying to speak about. She didn’t have proper English literacy so she was treated as her mother did. just like tan I was a immigrant and I came to the US in 2016, I only knew one sentence to say to every ending of a sentence my ELA teacher spoke “what does that mean” after she would explain what it meant I knew that I wasn’t going to understand so I kept asking again and again in doing so I learned full English in just 3 months, while living in NYC I also learned to speak there Englishes knowing all the slangs and all the literacy they used everyday I knew how to speak in any environment just like that.

  10. Reywin Baez

    1. I really enjoyed reading this piece because it managed to keep me engaged and interested in the life of the author. It was a deep dive into the life of someone who had to balance multiple languages in their life, and that spoke to me.
    2. The text is mostly about the Amy Tan’s relationship with the many languages in their life. They go through various experiences that shaped their beliefs on what language is. One such experience would be the way in which their mother spoke English, and how it might be considered “broken.” This gets the author thinking about the many ways she communicates in her life. Tan is a writer and deals with very proper English all the time, but the way her mother speaks is still held dear in her heart. Her appreciation for the way her mother speaks is show, notably, when she claims it as her “mother tongue.”
    3. What Tan is referring to when she writes, “Recently, I was made keenly aware of the different Englishes I do use,” is that there are many different ways that she communicates with other people throughout her life. These “different Englishes” she speaks of are how she separates her home and work life, for the most part. One English that she speaks at home is the simple, “fractured” English spoken by her mother. The other English that she speaks is the proper, “sophisticated” English she has developed throughout her school and work career.
    4. What Tan means by “mother tongue” is that the language her mother raised her with is the English that makes her feel the most comfortable. This shapes her identity because now English is another part of her than she can choose to share. She has to make a conscious decision of when to use her mother tongue and when to use the English that most people speak.
    5. Tan describes her mother’s English as “broken” or “fractured.” Although she believes that these adjectives are the easiest to describe the way her mother speaks, she doesn’t find them accurate enough to depict her mother as a whole. She goes on to say that from a young age, she began to view her mom’s English as something to be ashamed of. She witnesses how the way her mother speaks directly corresponds to how seriously people take her. There is a moment when her mother tried to get an apology out of a hospital for a mistake on their part, but because of the way she talked she was not being treated with the respect she deserved. This opened Tan’s eyes to the way language creates a power dynamic where people think that one way of speaking is inherently better or worse than another. That type of thinking promotes bigotry and discrimination at an unreasonable rate.
    6. Tan’s own experience was very different than her mother’s because she was educated in a place where English was the main language, therefore she had access to more opportunities to study it. Her upbringing and education have affected her relationship with language as well. This can be seen various times in the text when Tan has been able to garner success in areas where her mother could not, simply because she could speak with proper grammar.
    7. This reading has made me think a lot about the different languages in my life. It was something I never really thought about before, but I’m glad I am thinking about it now. There are definitely many ways that I express myself in my life through language. At home, I speak Spanish, but not the Spanish they teach in school. I come from the Dominican Republic, where the word “vosotros” doesn’t exist. There is also an accent that comes with being from the Dominican Republic; one where some consonants are often omitted from speech. Another language under my belt can be defined as “English,” but even that isn’t enough to describe the nuance of what the language I speak means. I speak somewhat formally when I’m in an academic setting, I think because I was conditioned to do so. I speak a little less formally when talking to acquaintances. Lastly, I speak with a lot of slang and shorthand amongst friends, especially thru text, because we just don’t have the time to spell every word when we’re together.
  11. Jelias Nieves

    1) I liked this piece because all though I can’t relate to her, many other people can.

    2)This piece is about Amy tan’s language barrier (she calls “Englishes) especially with her mother. She states how she uses an english with proper grammar and a more formal setting. She also uses an english that’s considered broken english when she speaks with her mother. The theme is that with enough effort, you can overcome any obstacle.

    3) The different languages she uses are Formal(in professional setting), Non-formal (with friends/family), and Broken(with her mother).

    4)Since english is not Amy tan’s mothers first language, she struggled with speaking fluent english that others could not understand. However, Amy had the ability to perfectly decipher what she says because she is used to it and can understand words in chinese when her mother doesn’t know the english translation.

    5) Amy tan describes her mothers english as broken english. Her perception of this changes after others listen to her speak and they all seem to not understand a single word she is saying. This reveals that those who may not speak good english can be viewed as less intelligent simply because they don’t sound fluent.

    6) Due to the fact that Amy tan grew up learning english in comparison to her mother, they both had different experiences with the language barrier. While Amy began to learn more and more english her mother was still speaking chinese and learning the language was a hard struggle for her.

    7)In school I speak with manners and with respect, at home I speak to my mother and sister with respect but I could use slang that they would understand. Where as when I speak with my friends I can speak more vulgar and feel at most like myself.

  12. ashley

    1. I believed Amy Tan’s “Mother Tongue” was a reflective and mind-provoking piece. It draws attention to the difficulties of spoken language, identity, as well as mother-child relationships. The way Tan explores her mother’s “limited” English and how it has affected her life and experiences is both moving and enlightening, and it has caused me to consider the potential and constraints of language in both individual and cultural contexts.
    2. The essay’s central issue is the potency and sway of language. Tan examines the many “Englishes” she employs, such as the simplified as well as the broken English she talks with her mother opposed to the English she use in the workplace. She uses personal stories and instances from her own life to illustrate this concept.
    3. When Amy Tan refers to “different Englishes,” she is referring to the various tenses and dialects that she employs depending on the situation. When interacting with her mother, she speaks in a more informal and straightforward style; nevertheless, when writing and in her career, she speaks in a more formal as well as complicated style.
    4. Tan’s “mother tongue” is the simplified form of English that her mother communicates as a result of her Chinese ancestry. She is shaped by this language as it ties her to her ancestors and cultural roots.
    5. Tan calls the English of her mother “limited,” “broken,” as well as “fractured.” Realizing how others perceive her mother’s language and realizing that people frequently underrate her mother’s capabilities based on her language ability cause her opinion of her mother’s language to shift. This demonstrates how people who speak a language’s “standard” or “correct” version have an edge over others.
    6. Tan has had the advantage of a more formal training as well as exposure to a wider spectrum of English, which makes her experience with the language different from her mother’s. Her background and education have equipped her with the ability to speak many dialects of English based on the circumstance.
    7. In both English and Spanish, I modify my speech so that it is appropriate for the listeners and the circumstances. I have a tendency to write in a manner that is more professional and exact in both languages whether I am texting or emailing. Nevertheless, when I am interacting with members of my family in Spanish, I might utilize colloquial terms and slang. When I’m around my English-speaking pals, my tone and vocabulary become less formal and more comfortable. It shifts so that it can keep a suitable communication and connection with the audience it’s intended for.
  13. Oluwatomisin

    1 Mother Tongue by Amy Tan is such a lovely piece. I like that I was able to relate to it 

    2 This piece is about Amy who realizes that she speaks 2 different kinds of English and that’s because her mother doesn’t either. The world sees her mother’s English as broken and most times don’t respect her.

    3 She means she speaks 2 different kinds of English. The standard one is for when she’s at school or work and the broken one is for when she’s with her mum or husband.

    4 Mother tongue is the way people from a certain place speak. For Amy Tan her mother tongue shaped her identity because that’s probably the way she learned to say/pronounce stuff  

    5 Tan portrays her mother tongue as broken or fractured. Tan’s view on her mother tongue changed when she realized how people would treat her mum. What this shows about the power of dynamics is that if you don’t speak “proper English” you’re not respected /valued in  the society.

    6 Tan’s experience differs from her mothers because Tan grew up and went to school in America. Her mum on the other hand probably had to learn english at a much more older age

    7 When I speak to my Nigerian-American friends I speak  the ”Nigerian way” with my very thick accent and use slang words like “abi” “ehn?” “God Abeg o” but when I’m with my American friends my tone is softer and I use slang words like “lol” “for real” and so on. I also try to speak carefully  so I’m understood 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *