An Analysis of the Imagery and Rhythm in Amy Tan’s Essay “Mother Tongue”

In the essay titled “Mother tongue” by Amy Tan, she wrote about her mom’s imperfect English, how she used to get embarrassed about it and how much she hated speaking on her mom’s behalf to other people because people can’t understand her mom most of the time. Amy also noticed that she speaks like her mother at times and how it hinders her performance when she is taking a test.

But as Amy grew older, she came to realized that the way her mom speaks is actually unique and not “fractured” or “broken” like she thought and how “language ability tests can never reveal: her intent, her passion, her imagery, the rhythms of her speech and the nature of her thoughts”.

She began writing in a way that can be read easily for anyone regardless of nationality. Even though Amy’s mom does not speak perfect English, she is a very smart person. According to Amy, her mother was a brilliant woman who “reads the Forbes reports, listens to Wall Street Week, converses daily with her stockbroker, reads all of Shirley MacLaine’s books with ease. Amy’s mother knew what she was doing, what limits her is the prejudice she received from people who cannot understand or simply assume that she is stupid because she did not speak in perfect grammar. I can relate to this as myself and my parents came from a non-English speaking country. We have encountered similar situations.

For example, about two years ago I experienced a very bad headache that result in me being hospitalized for a couple days. While I was waiting in the ER, one of the nurses had my mom to fill out some paperworks to process me in. My mom then tried to ask her how long it would take for them to take a look at me because we have been waiting in the ER for more than an hour. The nurse then snapped at my mom telling her to wait and wouldn’t explain anything to her. She only apologize when my brother steps in and threaten to file a complaint. In my opinion, I believe that just because someone cannot speak perfect English, does not make them any less intelligent of any sort than someone who can understand and speak English fluently.

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