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A Story by Amy Tan: Variations of English She Uses to Speak With Her Mother

The Struggles of Being an Immigrant

In Mother Tongue, Amy Tan goes in depth about how difficult it was for her mother to be a recent Chinese immigrant. She had a very heavy Chinese accent and most of the time people would say that they could not understand her. Tan talks about the four different types of “Englishes” she and her mother would use and how it affected her childhood and adult life.

Tan describes the four different types of English she would use at home and outside her home. She would use “simple”, “broken”, “limited”, and “proper” English, but didn’t like to use the word broken because broken means there is something that needed to be fixed. Since people sometime didn’t know what Tan’s mother was saying, she would have to speak for her. Tan knew how to speak “proper” English, and because of this Tan would have to call professional people and pretend to be her mother. For example, Mrs. Tan needed to resolve a situation with her stockbroker so she had her daughter call and speak for her. “I had to get on the phone and say “This is Mrs. Tan” (Tan 465). It was hard for Tan growing up because this was a regular thing. She would always have to go back and forth between speaking like an American and speaking like her mother, a Chinese-American.

In conclusion, Tan felt that when she would speak “proper” English, she was breaking away from her mother who did not know how to speak that way. The author’s goal of the text is to show people that there is not a correct way to speak English because it is a very diverse language that can be spoken in many different ways.

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