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Language & Immigration in “Mother Tongue” by Amy Tan


In this paper, founding the arguments on the article of Amy Tan, problems that come from language barriers – with the emphasis on the related immigrants’ hardships – will be discussed.

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Summary Paragraph

In her article “Mother’s tongue,” Amy Tan shares her views on different forms of English and their impact on the life of people, especially immigrants. She raises the problem of the limitations of their activities connected with the language barrier (Tan, 1990). In the article, Amy describes the struggles of the first Asian immigrants who failed to adapt to the new language fully. She also mentions the role of other people in the formation of the personality of a child from an immigrant family. The author refers to her personal experience at school, considering discrimination against immigrant children in the choice of their future occupation.

The necessity of language mentoring for immigrants who experience language barriers

It might be reasonable to provide immigrants with help in the framework of their language adaptation. The article clearly reveals the hardships of the situation in which these people may be involved. It is apparent that without the necessary support, they will simply fail to become a part of society. They will feel and behave like foreigners that are redundant within the scope of social relationships. Hence, the option to give them the opportunity to communicate with and get the experience from mentors seems acceptable. Immigrants may improve their level of language significantly by talking with native speakers. These speakers should not necessarily be professional educators, teachers, or professors. They can be volunteers – people who cannot stay apart from key societal issues and always aspire to help others. If such support is provided, immigrants will have fewer problems than they have now and have more possibilities to concentrate on other aspects of their adaptation – not only the language one.

The conditions that should be given to immigrant children at schools are to be improved

The article presented Tan’s awful personal experience, so it seems obvious that conditions in schools are to be changed. First, it seems rational to give immigrant children less homework at school compared to other kids. Instead, they should spend some extra hours with their language teachers, for instance, in speaking clubs. Of course, homework from these teachers should not be reduced. However, other children can simply not understand the situation and see differences in homework as unfair. It might result in a negative attitude toward immigrants, which will make their life even more difficult. Thus, before establishing such conditions, teachers should explain the situation to non-immigrant children, as well as ask their parents to elaborate on the issue for them. The described approach might facilitate the process of immigrant children’s adaptation to the new language and social environment. Moreover, it might contribute to the improvement of the mental health of these children as they are very emotional and defenseless at school age.

The pressure that authorities may put on citizens regarding their attitude to immigrants

The arguments provided by Amy Tan serve as a great foundation for the understanding of the struggle that immigrants face. Her rationale shows that the issue cannot be solved without governmental involvement. Authorities may affect public opinion about immigrants significantly. Not every citizen realizes the difficulties that many of these immigrants are forced to face every day. Thus, governments can organize several public campaigns and make some TV shows that could demonstrate the language hardships of immigrants. Once the public opinion is affected, the overall attitude may be improved, which will improve immigrants’ conditions. Citizens will express more respect and try to provide support when and where possible. Authorities can also give immigrant families more possibilities for adaptation. For instance, the government could finance the creation of volunteer centers that will consist of language mentors who would guide and support immigrants initially.


In conclusion, it should be stated that Amy Tan’s article consists of several significant points that remain relevant nowadays. The issues related to immigrants’ adaptation should be perceived as crucial, which is evident from Tan’s argumentation. The above discussion provides the rationale for the following proposals: offering language mentoring services, improving conditions for immigrant children at school, and providing governmental support. The article proved that each of these proposals might contribute to the process of immigrants’ adaptation.


Tan, A. (1990). Mother Tongue. The Threepenny review, 43(7), 7-8.

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StudyCorgi. (2022, April 29). Language & Immigration in “Mother Tongue” by Amy Tan. Retrieved from


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