Thursday, September 15, 2011

Emily Nelson blog 3

    Amy Tan’s essay, “Mother Tongue” gave a very unique perspective on language barriers. Overall, I noticed Tan’s writing style was in an open prose form of an essay. All of her thoughts and stories were about the different types of english she encounters. Tan ends the introduction stating “Language is the tool of my trade. And I use them all-all the Englishes I grew up with,” (Tan 113). I can tell from how she phrased this that she will be explaining to her readers her experiences with english and that she is not trying to persuade us. “Mother Tongue” always stays on topic but there was never anything said that was trying to persuade the audience. Tan never directly states a thesis but she entertains the journey of her english experiences well.
    I believe Tan is trying to speak to people who aren’t accepting of different cultures. She showed the instances when her mother was at the hospital and talking to her stockbroker where the language barrier set her apart from other patients or clients. The simple fact that Tan’s mother couldn’t speak great english put her on a lower level than others. I think Tan wanted to address that and let people know that that is not the right way to handle things. In this case, stockbrokers and doctors in Tan’s essay are shown to be lazy because they don’t take Tan’s mother as seriously as others.
    This essay doesn’t conform to the typical essay writing style. It is more of a story being told, but it is done in an essay format. Tan uses quotes to prove points, like in a typical essay, but doesn’t follow a normal essay format. Tan is informative and direct to her audience, but she isn’t stating facts and quoting literature to argue a point. She uses personal experiences to show her side and where she is coming from and that sets this essay apart from an average essay.


  1. Looking at this writing and seeing that the Amy Tan was not trying to persuade anyone is really interesting, i did not immediately see that until you pointed it out. Great way of viewing this essay!

  2. I thought she was trying to persuade people too at first, but you're right, she is just trying to describe her mother's language and show people that there are inappropriate ways to handle it.

  3. i think it was cool that she is not trying to persuade anyone also.

  4. I agree that there is not an argument explicitly visible in this piece. However, I wonder if we could consider the essay's narrative format as persuasive, but in a more subtle way. For me this is evident at the very end of the essay when Amy Tan wins her mother's approval: "I had succeeded where it counted when my mother finished reading my book and gave me her verdict: 'So easy to read.'" (Tan qtd. in Melzer and Coxwell-Teague 117). Here, Tan was able to write not only in a way that appeased the wishes of her publisher, but also in a way that pleased her more intimate critic, her mother. By avoiding some of the complexities of Formal English she may have affected how literary scholars classify her work, but she was also able to reach a broad audience that includes people, or at least a person, whom English is not their first language.