Mother Tongue

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"Mother Tongue" by Amy Tan

In “Mother Tongue,” the author, Amy Tan applies unique writing technique to present her arguments. The tone used in the work makes it appealing and is desired by the readers, besides a writing style that is well thought and clear. Tan provides the details of the challenges that her mother goes through in terms of variation in English. Despite the difficulties, the unwavering respect she gives to the parent is high and do not care about the barriers. In essence, the author presents the barriers that people face in the process of assimilating into another country’s norms. The latter lead to distressful situations and some people may feel uncomfortable. Amy Tan presents her work in a clear manner that the readers can understand the main argument; thus, making it interesting to read.

The Role of Emotion and Logic

The author applies the role of emotion and logic to convey the lessons and the pain she goes through. As such, she comprehends the unequal treatments that immigrants face when they are in the foreign countries. Most of the people do not meet their expectations in the new places and they may be profiled in terms of cultural background. In Amy Tan’s discussion, she notes the experiences she went through in the United States with her mother due to the ethnic inequalities they had to deal with. Just from the title “Mother Tongue,” the reader is posed with the meaning of the article, which is majorly based on how people speak. In giving the title meaning, she demonstrates how her friends mock her mother, saying that she speaks a totally different language. Despite the views, she maintains that the language spoken is clear, vivid, and has shaped her way of life.

The Impact of Language Barriers

Tan also expresses her theme by presenting the situations that her mother faced due to the arrogance in the hospitals when she was taken for tests. She had been taken for a check on her status after the CAT scan after suffering from a benign tumor in the brain. However, little efforts were made by the hospital to retrieve the test results since they thought she would bring someone with improper language when she visits again (Tan, 2002). In essence, the inability to speak good English jeopardized the process of treatment. The author believes that the situation of her mother would be worse if she had no one who could speak good language.

Promoting Mutual Understanding

Essentially, the writer connects the readers with the emotional scenes by making them feel the painful experiences and evoking their sympathy. She provides the idea of equality and the need for understanding the variance in the way people speak; thus, promoting mutual relationships. As noted, the English speakers receive perfect services as compared to the immigrants. When the argument starts, Tan displays the magnitude of struggles she underwent because of the challenge and was ashamed by her mother’s broken language (Tan, 2002). She made efforts to capture the thoughts, intent, and the nature of the parent’s thoughts, which allowed for understanding of the language and showing respect throughout the communication.


In summary, “Mother Tongue” makes readers understand the social injustices that people may face in the community due to various types of discriminations. Tan’s mother had to deal with the mockery and challenging situations in life due to the inability to speak proper English. In essence, the piece of art uses an emotional and sympathetic tone to persuade the readers on the importance of eliminating language barriers that may arise in the society.


Tan, A. (2002). Mother tongue. Enriching ESOL Pedagogy: Readings and Activities for Engagement, Reflection, and Inquiry, by Vivian Zamel, Ruth Spack. Lawrence Erlbaum, 431-435.

November 24, 2023




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