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Althea M March

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About The Mother Tongue
By Althea M March
Thursday, May 10, 2007

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What it means to have your own unique language.

For anyone whose parents hail from another country, as is also the case with me, they can relate to Amy Tan’s account of “Mother Tongue”. Our day-to-day relationship with Standard English in our minds tends to differentiate each and every one of us who are English-speaking to some degree or another in terms of social status, education and economic privilege.
The author’s mother played an integral role in her life and the shaping of this story, especially when it came to she expressed English. Early in Amy Tan’s life, after having a formal education, of which English played a key part, she thought she had “arrived” in the English-speaking world of the United States. She actually placed herself a step or two above her mother when it came to spoken English by thinking that her Standard English was better than her mother’s “broken” English.
Whenever other people reacted to the way in which her mother spoke, she thought that people’s behavior was somehow correct or proper. As life moved on for Amy Tan, she realized that her mother’s frequent use of English newspapers, periodicals and her business transactions that her “limited” use of the English language imparted a certain wisdom about it. In fact, she saw that her mother’s brand of English had its own unique peculiarity about and was thus clearly understandable to her to which she referred to this in her account as “her impeccable broken English.”
However, society tends to look down upon those persons whose native language is not English and thus pretending not to hear what you are saying or totally ignoring you as if you are invisible. The overall feeling given is that is there is not any understanding of the nuances of the English language with of all its colors of expression, which is hard for anyone to pick up having any second language in that regard. For her mother to say, “So easy to read,” actually meant that the author had achieved her goal of writing for her mother and people like her mother to understand what she was writing about.

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Reviewed by Althea March 5/11/2007
For anyone who has lived in a household where variants of the English language in either a creole or pidgin form is spoken daily by parents and how this life experience translates into real-life situations when applying yourself to understanding language in its standard form.


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