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Over the past few months while I have been studying in the U.S., the use of English has been a constant companion whereas in the past within my native country I had little use for it. It is due to this change in perspective and use that I have come to a realization that there are a variety of nuances and subtleties to it that I did not even realize and similarly to the character of Amy Tan in the story “Mother Tongue” I also noticed that my use of English at the present in comparison to that of my father is far better both grammatically and phonetically. Such a realization came as a surprise since prior to my arrival in the U.S. I actually thought that my father could actually speak English rather well. It is due to this that I came to the realization that the context of experience often changes prior opinions based on new information that has been encountered.
In order to better understand why I was so surprised with this sudden jarring realization (I describe this as jarring since I have always looked up to my father and idolize him), some context is necessary so as to better understand my point of view. When I was younger, I had often seen my father communicate with a variety of individuals using English. At the time I was quite impressed with him since bilingualism was not a common trait where I am from and to see him talk to others in English was quite a feat in my eyes back then. Do note though that at time I barely understood English and had very little context to actually understand what my father was saying. As such, the words that came out of his mouth and the way that he communicated was in my eyes “flawless”. A few years before I left to study in the U.S., I attended a local language school in order to prepare myself and improve upon my meager rudimentary knowledge of the English language.
At the time I still thought that my father’s version of “English” was quite good and that I should aspire to be just as good as him. However, over time I noticed a few subtle differences, just as Amy Tan in the story “Mother Tongue” noted that how her mother spoke English held her back, I believe that how my father spoke English similarly held me back in developing the manner in which I communicated in that particular language. As I mentioned earlier, I idolized my father and tried to emulate him in every way possible, the same applies to the manner in which he spoke English. Despite the language school teaching me a variety of grammar and types of phonetically appropriate methods of speech in relation to proper English speaking, I always differed back to the way in which my father spoke English and how he communicated with it. Thus, I mostly used his rules and his version rather than what the language school taught. What you have to understand was that at the time, my father’s way of speaking English was all I knew and all I aspired to. I had little in the way of sufficient outside context and admittedly the language schools could only do so much without sufficient immersion in the English language to teach me.
Arriving in the U.S.
Based on the previous section, I am sure you can agree that when I arrived in the U.S. I was due for a significant level of “culture shock” so to speak, both due to the new culture I was experiencing and the fact that the utilization of English here was far different to what I was used to. As I became fully immersed in the local language and over a series of calls I had with my family back home to tell them I was alright, I started to notice that what I knew as English back then was a pale imitation of the real thing. Just as Amy Tan from the story “Mother Tongue” described her mother’s way of speaking as “broken English” I began to notice that the way in which my father spoke was oddly similar. His phrases, grammar usage, phonetics and even the way in which he would describe certain things was slightly “off” in my opinion since by then I had more than sufficient context to compare it to. It was an eye opener to be honest since, as I have mentioned several times before, I idolized my father and to consider him “inferior” in any way was anathema to everything that I stood for. Yet, as the conversations between me and my family kept on coming I was constantly forced towards the realization that what I thought of as I my ideal was something that was from it.
Based on everything that has been presented, it can be seen that the context of experience often changes prior opinions based on new information that has been encountered. In my case, I came to the realization that my father’s English is not as perfect as I once believed it was, however, this does not mean that I respect him any less, rather, I am at the present more open to admitting that he is not perfect but still a good, honest and caring man in my eyes and that is all I have ever needed from him.