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As a child, there was a time when we used to love to play a game called Tongue Twisters. The point of the game is to say a phrase such as “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers” as fast and as correct as they could. The fun in this word game came from watching others stumble to articulate a phrase, that would be easy to say any other time, and fail, sometimes miserably. Everyone would laugh and begin to joke on that person because they could not say a simple phrase in English right. The short story written by Amy Tan, “Mothers Tongue”, reminds me of this childs game, as it entails the authors family experiences with speaking the English language. Mrs. Tan starts by reminiscing on the fact that, even though she speaks English all of the time, there are points where she is speaking a different form of English. It is at this point Mrs. Tan begins a thoughtful journey into how a dialect of the English language, affected herself, her mother, and others around the both of them. It is through these experiences that she illustrates how society will categorize and discriminate against those who may be perceived to have a poor articulation of the English language. While reading the short story, it resonates on how discrimination can be so pervasive and chameleon-like in our society. Through the authors narration, we catch a glimpse at how the lack of proper diction in ones spoken word could be used against them. I want to elaborate on how the writer affected me through her short story of what it was like growing up and being placed at somewhat a disadvantage because of the way the English language was spoken in in her household.
The authors first indication of how the influence of this secondary language affected her is demonstrated when she noticed the change in her diction at a book forum. Normally, Mrs. Tan would not have noticed her pattern of speech however, she was aware of it because her mother was in the room. It felt wrong to Mrs. Tan because she felt she was “using the kind of English I have never used with her” (Tan 38). That form of English her mother was using in public was not used at home. The second circumstance arose when she went shopping with her mother and husband. Mrs. Tan became aware that the language used in public changed to a specific dialect when conversation was directed between her mother and herself. She became concerned and interested in why her husband never corrected or commented on that. Mrs. Tan soon realized that her husband was used to the way they spoke because he was familiar with it after twenty years. She summed up his lack of interest in the change of their diction was because it was a form of “family talk” (39).
Mrs. Tan begins to place a correlation between her patterns of speech in public and her pattern of speech at home. To her, this pattern had to have begun somewhere, even if she was not consciously aware of