sc-tan-mothtong (1) - MOTHER TONGUE AMY TAN Mother Tongue Amy Tan born in 1952 was raised in northern California Formerly a business writer Tan is

sc-tan-mothtong (1) - MOTHER TONGUE AMY TAN Mother...

This preview shows page 1 - 2 out of 4 pages.

AMY TAN Mother Tongue Amy Tan, born in 1952, was raised in northern California. Formerly a business writer, Tan is now a novelist. She is best known for her first book, The Joy Luck Club (1989), but has also written The Kitchen God's Wife (1991), The Bonesetter's Daughter (2001), Saving Fish from Drowning (2005), and The Valley of Amazement (2013). Her fic- tion is rooted in her experiences as the child of Chinese immigrants growing up and living in American culture. In "Mother Tongue," Tan describes the variety of Englishes she uses. In doing so, she addresses the connections between languages and cul- tures, but in her writing she also demonstrates what she says about herself in the essay: "I am a writer. And by that definition, I am some- one who has always loved language" (par. 2). As you read, note the ways in which this love for language manifests itself I am not a scholar of English or literature. I cannot give you much more than personal opinions on the English language and its variations in this country or others. I am a writer. And by that definition, I am someone who has always loved language. I am fascinated by language in daily life. 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. Language is the tool of my trade. And I use them all- all the Englishes I grew up with. Recently, I was made keenly aware of the different Englishes I do use. I was giving a talk to a large group of people, the same talk I had already given to half a dozen other groups. The nature of the talk was about my writing, my life, and my book, The Joy Luck Club. The talk was going along well enough, until I remembered one major difference that made the whole talk sound wrong. My mother was in the room. And it was perhaps the first time she had heard me give a lengthy speech, using the kind of English I have never used with her. I was saying things like "The intersection of 362 MOTHER TONGUE 363 memory upon imagination" and "There is an aspect of my fic- tion that relates to thus-and-thus" -a speech filled with carefully wrought grammatical phrases, burdened, it suddenly seemed to me, with nominalized forms, past perfect tenses, conditional phrases, all the forms of standard English that I had learned in school and through books, the forms of English I did not use at home with my mother. Just last week, I was walking down the street with my mother, and I again found myself conscious of the English I was using, the English I do use with her. We were talking about the price of new and used furniture and I heard myself saying this: "Not waste money that way." My husband was with us as well, and he didn't notice any switch in my English. And then I realized why. It's because over the twenty years we've been together I've often used that same kind of English with him, and sometimes he even uses it with me. It has become our language of intimacy, a different sort of English that relates to family talk, the language I grew up with.

  • Left Quote Icon

    Student Picture

  • Left Quote Icon

    Student Picture

  • Left Quote Icon

    Student Picture