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Linguistic Identity. “Mother Tongue” by Amy Tan Essay

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Updated: Jul 10th, 2021

The essay “Mother Tongue” by Amy Tan is a beautiful and elaborate piece meant to demonstrate the cultural challenges and divides existing for those with English as a second language. Tan comprehensively explores the role that language plays in perceptions of the world, relationships among people, and the perception of other nationalities and ethnicities in intercultural communication. The primary purpose of the essay was to define and analyze Tan’s struggles with linguistic identity and how she used her background and relationship with the English language to become a writer.

The first point that Tan makes is regarding the power of language and its use in daily life. For some, language is a natural part of daily life, while to others it is a tool used in the profession. Tan describes that she suddenly became aware of the “different Englishes” that she and most other people use. Many things depend on the context of the language use, for example, the topic of discussion, setting, and the people one interacts with. Language can sometimes take on intimate forms used with family and close individuals that may not make sense to others or be grammatically incorrect. Tan particularly refers to her mother, who is of Chinese background and educated. The woman can use somewhat “broken” syntax and unorthodox phraseology. While Tan understands her clearly, others may struggle with communication.

The essay’s argument leads to how limited English is based on perception. Therefore, realizing these barriers, one can consider the challenges that non-native speakers may face in a variety of aspects in life where perfect grammatical communication is necessary. The author specifically highlights how Asian-American students are often steered towards math and sciences and believed to be incapable of lingual-based fields due to accents, phraseology, and grammar errors. In turn, Tan reflects on her own life as to how she faced similar cultural stereotypes, but defied expectations and became a professional author.

This article was selected due to the personal connection it has to my life. Language continues to define perspectives and cultural outlook for me based on my own background. I appreciate that Tan speaks candidly but personably, emphasizing the intimate moments of learning a second language, especially with the family involved. My goal is to promote the idea that is highlighted in the essay as can be related to a significant number of people and should be made known in the educational settings where there are so many non-native English-speaking children. Their socialization is limited, and ambitions are destroyed due to the stereotypes and cultural perspectives on language mastery. My goal is to break down these barriers and demonstrate my passion for language that similar to Tan’s arguments should not discriminate based on cultural background.

Evidence may be beneficial in supporting my claim from an empirical standpoint. Such aspects as education patterns, student capabilities, psychological and sociological perspectives can be explained through theory and research. Therefore, while Tan’s essay is largely based on personal experience, I hope to build it into a solid argument. I am particularly interested in the evidence that Tan offers regarding Asian student being directed into STEM programs rather humanities due to their perceived poor knowledge of the language.

My revision strategy will be based on carefully rereading my writing and focusing on feedback from other readers. I will use a variety of tools such as research databases, a thesaurus for better use of synonyms, and proofreading to check for grammar. I will focus on revising the large aspects first such as the flow of my argument and supporting evidence, and gradually focusing on smaller details such as grammar and word choice. Receiving feedback from outside perspectives as crucial as it helps to identify weaknesses that one would not commonly notice yourself. I think my greatest weakness is word choice and sentence structure which limit my ability to express the complex ideas on the topic. Utilizing external feedback helps to preview how my writing would be understood by the general readership.

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IvyPanda. (2021, July 10). Linguistic Identity. “Mother Tongue” by Amy Tan. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/linguistic-identity-mother-tongue-by-amy-tan/

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"Linguistic Identity. “Mother Tongue” by Amy Tan." IvyPanda, 10 July 2021, ivypanda.com/essays/linguistic-identity-mother-tongue-by-amy-tan/.

1. IvyPanda. "Linguistic Identity. “Mother Tongue” by Amy Tan." July 10, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/linguistic-identity-mother-tongue-by-amy-tan/.


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IvyPanda. "Linguistic Identity. “Mother Tongue” by Amy Tan." July 10, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/linguistic-identity-mother-tongue-by-amy-tan/.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Linguistic Identity. “Mother Tongue” by Amy Tan." July 10, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/linguistic-identity-mother-tongue-by-amy-tan/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'Linguistic Identity. “Mother Tongue” by Amy Tan'. 10 July.

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