My Mother’s Language by Amy Tan (Summary and Reflection)

My Mother’s English – an article written by Amy Tan to tell her mother’s experiences with her impeccable broken English. She started her article by introducing herself and her interests on languages. Just to name a few of her reasons, she got fascinated by language due to its power to evoke emotion, portray visual images, and convey simple or complex ideas. These things she believes greatly affect the daily life of human. The inspiration was taken from her true-to-life story; how she makes adjustments every time she converses with others. There was an instance in her life that where her mother noticed language which she has never used to her; a language that she learned from school and book. Another instance was when she’s walking down the street with her husband and her mother while talking about new and used furniture. She became self-conscious about the kind of English she was using whether it would be understood by all or not. All these are because of her mother’s English. It’s broken. It’s fractured. It’s limited. Painful to hear the words but that’s how she calls it. Worse part of it was when her mother was speaking in English from a TV interview, and the subtitles are also in English. Rude. Insulting. Offensive. But that’s how it all came out. Some of her friends said that only 50% of her mother was saying was understood, and some said none at all. This may not be a problem to her since she grew up with her mother. She said in the article that were times when she was asked to pretend to be Mrs. Tan to phone someone to give a complaint or something. She did those things for her mother to get rid of those rude people and avoid awkward situations. She believes that her mother’s direct translation of Chinese to English language makes her message hard to convey. The article was ended by a humorous statement about her first book and her mother’s comment that it’s easy to read.

The entire article was all circuiting on her mother’s English, which of course the title was suggesting! Well, Amy’s situation is relatable. It targets issues about language barriers which is commonly happening in the world. It’s nothing but a fact. It’s not easy for a daughter to write an article about her mother’s imperfection. Though her purpose was to defend her, for others, it still demeaning in a sense. However, the way she arranged the story and her feelings towards it, it turned out to have a sympathetic atmosphere. Of course, no one would ever want his or her mother to be disrespected. So what’s the tendency? The readers would pay heed to her story. It was not written to put her mother into shame to but bring out the best moral – EVERYONE HAS UNTOLD STORIES TO TELL. She may not explain it directly, but as the article goes and develops, it gives the readers the upper hand to read between the lines. Not because a person has a poor command in the language, we can disrespect them. No one can ever master a certain language. It’s a universal truth. Her article portrays her side as a loving daughter and a loving language user. She tried to explain the complexity of language barriers by using her mother as the center of the story.


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