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“Mother Tongue” of A.Tan Analysis Review

Amy Tan is an American writer of Asian origin who is passionate about languages. She had to grow up in a difficult situation, being the daughter of a Chinese immigrant. Her circumstances were also complicated due to the communication issues that her mother had to endure. For this reason, she decided to reflect on those memories in her article Mother Tongue, where she shares her views on different forms of English. However, her story is not only contemplation of her life and struggles that came with speaking English as an immigrant. For the reader, it can also be a motivating story about overcoming communicational boundaries and making peace with who you are.

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Amy Tan had to grow up in a home with her Chinese mother who, despite having no problems understanding the language, still did not manage to speak clearly. Therefore, the family had to endure a number of situations where they were discriminated against. For example, the author remembers that time when the doctors at the hospital refused to give her information about the CAT scan. However, the moment Tan, who spoke perfect English, appeared, the medical staff immediately apologized and promised to look for it. This particular case demonstrates that people often tend to stereotype those who are not able to speak English well. Even though her mother easily can read books and newspapers, people assume that she is uncultured and for this reason refuse to treat her like a human being. Tan even notes almost had this factor “almost had an effect on limiting my opportunities in life as well” (Tan, 1990, p. 8). It is evident that language barriers may cause a number of problems in life. However, she is ashamed of neither her mother nor her heritage.

Moreover, another interesting element that can be drawn from her narrative is the fact that despite this negative experience, the author manages to find passion in languages. As she states, “I spend a great deal of my time thinking about the power of language – the way it can evoke an emotion, a visual image, a complex idea, or a simple truth.” (Tan, 1990, p. 7) These words can be really motivating not only for those who are struggling with learning a new language but for those who want to try something new but have difficulties. After all, although Tan had to encounter several issues regarding the use of English, she still found her passion in writing. It can even be considered a little rebellion against those who did not believe in her abilities.

Another interesting factor about this article is its style. It seems relatively simple and easy to understand, even though it might be challenging to understand the mother’s speech. Nevertheless, the author takes pride in the fact that the text is almost effortless because she states that she created it with her mother in her mind. In other words, Tan specifically made the article easy to comprehend in order for other immigrant people to understand her message fully. Such kind of help is important since those who just moved to another country may have issues communicating with others. After all, most of the time, English natives do not worry about the current inequalities because they don’t face them on a regular basis. Moreover, this writing style is also a form of saving the heritage of her parent since it seems like the mother’s speech has a substantial impact on Tan’s writing style. As the author notes, she decided to use simple English forms since her family spoke in that manner (Tan, 1990). Tan feels like she needs to represent this type of language because it was an essential part of her life.

The story of Amy Tan is to be not only interestingly written but also fascinating in regards to a story as well. The reader can find that the way how Tan’s mother uses language is inspiring because, despite all struggles, she continues to speak how she prefers. Moreover, this confidence also goes to the daughter since Tan enthusiastically uses this simple English in conversations with her family. While others have troubles understanding them, the author has no such problems. She realizes that although this way of using language may seem ridiculous, it still helped her mother to understand the world, solve problems and express herself. The reader can find it touching that the author openly accepts her heritage and uses both ways to speak English without feeling any shame. Her burning passion for languages is also apparent in this text.

In conclusion, it would appear that in this article, Amy Tan managed to portray difficulties regarding issues that are caused by language barriers. However, aside from describing such challenges, the author also takes pride in her upbringing. For the reader, this text may seem not only relevant and important due to its social commentary on immigration. It can also serve as a motivating story of accepting who you are.


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

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