No matter where we have come from, everyone has some type of language difference. “Mother Tongue” by Amy Tan, and “How to Tame a Wild Tongue” by Gloria Anzaldúa are essays that share similar topics as they talk about how different types of the same language are perceived several ways in society.
The two authors share their personal experiences of how they’ve dealt with being oppressed by what society declares the right way of speaking. Both essays explain the authors ethnic backgrounds, and they incorporate their language which helps the reader understand more their experiences. Amy Tan talks about how her heritage and Asian background led to how she has come to see the world, and the way she speaks. Gloria Anzaldúa identifies herself as a Mexican-American Chicana. Her essay talks about how her ancestry has been viewed since the beginning of colonization into America.
Anzaldúa and Tan express that language used with family, education, and the society form peoples’ identities. It’s common to go through daily hardships and challenges when living with a family that speaks broken English. Anzaldúa’s mother would say in Spanish, “To get a good job you need to speak English well. What good does your education do if you speak English with an accent?” (par. 4). Anzaldúa’s mother only wanted the best for her, and she thought being able to speak perfect English, was the best thing for her.
Anzaldúa reflects on a situation that many people face in a contact zone of many different cultures. She explains how she felt unaccepted by all groups, Americans, Mexicans, and other Spanish speakers. Anzaldúa was accused by various Latinos of being a cultural traitor. She was rejected by many Latinos and Americans. Along with her classmates, her teacher gave her a hard time as well.
“If you want to be American, speak ‘American’. If you don’t like it, go back to Mexico where you belong.” (Anzaldúa par. 3) Not only did Anzaldúa get ridiculed about her Spanish, but her English as well. Amy on the other hand, although facing a similar situation, hers was slightly different. From “Mother Tongue” Tan provides an example of her mother’s “broken English”: “Why he don’t send me check, already two weeks late. So mad he lie to me, losing me money.” (par.
10) Tan uses personal stories of her relationship with her mother, and how her mother’s limited and broken English has made an impact on her life. Amy tries to show that even though her mother’s English may be described as “broken”, it can be understood and does not determine her intelligence. This is evident when she says, “I wanted to capture what language ability tests can never reveal: her intent, her passion, her imagery, the rhythms of her speech, and the nature of her thoughts.” (Par. 21-22) People are judged based off image and external features before internal ones are known. Although someone’s English may not be perfect, that doesn’t mean they aren’t smart or intelligent.
People in society should get to know one another before they stereotype someone. Going to school where personal image is a big part of a student’s life can be very nerve racking. American values are often forced upon students and a certain way of life is expected of them. The struggle of fitting in and accepting the cultural background is a major point in both essays. No matter what anyone else thinks or says, our opinion of ourselves should be the most important. Anzaldúa states that being Mexican is equally as important to her as being American.
Her essay proves that you don’t need to change who you are because it’s always within you and others should learn to see and respect that. Facing a similar situation, Amy Tan had some troubles in her language as well. At a very young age, she was expected to speak with very important people such as stockbrokers and doctors due to her mother’s inability to speak perfect English. Due to these experiences from her childhood, such as becoming her mother’s translator, made Tan realize the importance of being able to articulate her thoughts well in order to have smoother experiences. Both women come from very different backgrounds, face the same type of problem, but are able to realize that despite what others think or say, that being uncomfortable with themselves is something that needs to change. Tan also shares with us how being of Asian descent has affected her.
She explains to us that the “different English’s” she speaks impacted her in a negative way when she was younger. For example, when she scored lower on her standardized test she felt that it was because of her mother’s way of speaking. But now that she has matured she sees that these English’s benefit her in a positive way because she can now relate to a broader audience. All variations of dialects should be accepted in society without being neglected, shunned, or misinterpreted.