Amy Tan’s “Mother Tongue”: Reading Response
In her essay “Mother Tongue,” Amy Tan states that the “broken” language of immigrants impacts their future perspectives and relationship with native speakers. The author writes: “I think my mother’s English almost affected limiting my possibilities in life…” (Tan 636). Tan always wanted to become a writer but was constantly dissuaded from doing it. In that way, immigrants’ opportunities are often limited by their language skills because other people usually judge their mental abilities in terms of speech.
Indeed, immigrants often suffer the negative effects of their language deficiency. The survey in Canada demonstrates that immigrants with high occupational skills but poor language fluency tend to settle for low-skilled jobs (Imai et al. 917). While Canadian immigration policy selects people with strong cognitive skills, these immigrants end up working in less demanding occupations. The Australian study of language impact on children’s health shows that language proficiency relates to health services and medication access (Clarke & Isphording 765). In addition to communication with the personnel, interaction with the healthcare system includes obtaining the information from the books, magazines, and booklets. Therefore, to be healthy and economically valued, immigrants need to enhance their language proficiency.
Amy Tan’s family also had the stated language issues. Tan describes her mother’s treatment at the hospital: she was met without sympathy and could not make another appointment until Amy herself, in perfect English, talked to the doctor (Tan 637). In addition, growing with her “mother tongue,” Amy had a hard time accomplishing her English tests, so her future occupation seemed to be a real challenge (Tan 638). Still, Asian American writers are thinly represented in American Literature.
I think that Tan’s work brightly describes the disturbing issue of language deficiency. Trying to find a better place to raise their children, immigrants go to a foreign country. However, they lose their hopes of recognition and beneficial job opportunities because language barriers often determine their place in society. Therefore, to overcome that limitation, people need to use every possible opportunity to develop their fluency.
Imai, Susumu, Derek Stacey, and Casey Warman. “From Engineer to Taxi Driver? Language Proficiency and the Occupational Skills of Immigrants.” Canadian Journal of Economics/Revue canadienne d’économique, vol. 52, no.3, 2019, pp. 914-953.
Clarke, Andrew, and Ingo E. Isphording. “Language barriers and immigrant health.” Health economics, vol.26, no.6, 2017, pp. 765-778.
Tan, Amy. “Mother Tongue.” Real Essays with Readings, edited by Susan Anker, 5th ed. Bedford, 2015, 633-38.