No matter where we have come from, we all speak languages differently. “Mother Tongue” by Amy Tan (1990), and “How to Tame a Wild Tongue” by Gloria Anzaldúa (1987) 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 treated differently for speaking differently. 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 Asian background led to how she views the world, and the way she speaks. Gloria Anzaldúa 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 you live 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 thought being able to speak perfect English was best for her. Anzaldúa reflects on how she felt unaccepted Americans, Mexicans, and other Spanish speakers. She was rejected by people by people from both of her cultures. Her classmates and her teacher gave her a hard time as well by saying, “If you want to be American, speak American. If you don’t like it, go back to Mexico where you belong” (par. 3). Anzaldúa got criticism about her Spanish and her English, but she felt that being Mexican was equally as important to her as being American. Her essay tries to prove 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.
Amy Tan on the other hand faced a similar situation through her mothers’ different tongue. From “Mother Tongue,” Tan (1990) provides an example of her mother’s broken English. She quoted, “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. When she was young she was expected to speak with stockbrokers and doctors due to her mother’s inability to speak perfect English. She tries to explain even though her mother’s English may be broken, it can be understood and doesn’t define her intelligence. It was evident when she continued with, “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.
Both essays share similarities on the struggle of fitting in and accepting the cultural backgrounds that influenced the way they speak. Additionally, both authors go on to show how they realized that there can be more than one right way of speaking a language. In a way both authors came to understand that their native language shapes their self-identity. The different obstacles and challenges experienced are what make us who we are with our own unique backgrounds and identities. The two essays show that no matter how generalized the American society is you shouldn’t shame or change who you are especially your language because it makes you unique.