Mother Tongue

by Amy Tan
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Describe how others (those who do not know her intimately) see Tan's mother versus how Tan describes her in "Mother Tongue." Include details from the text.

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Amy Tan tells us that, despite her broken English, her mother understands a lot more than one would think. For instance, Mrs. Tan is able to read Forbes reports, converse with her stockbroker, and listen to "Wall Street Week" without any problems whatsoever. And as Tan freely acknowledges, this is...

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Amy Tan tells us that, despite her broken English, her mother understands a lot more than one would think. For instance, Mrs. Tan is able to read Forbes reports, converse with her stockbroker, and listen to "Wall Street Week" without any problems whatsoever. And as Tan freely acknowledges, this is more than you can say for her daughter. Mrs. Tan's expressive, vivid use of English doesn't appear to hinder her most complex interactions with American society.

Or most of them, at any rate. One day, Mrs. Tan went to the hospital for a CAT scan. While there, she claimed that she spoke her very best English, the kind of English one presumes she uses in conversation with her stockbroker. And yet, despite this, no one at the hospital apologized for losing Mrs. Tan's CAT scan, a mistake which had caused her a wasted journey.

Mrs. Tan further insisted on an exact diagnosis, given that her husband and son had both died of brain tumors. But still the hospital wouldn't give her any additional information and told Mrs. Tan that she'd have to make another appointment.

It was only when Amy—who of course speaks perfect English—was called in with her mother that the doctor finally gave assurances that the CAT scan would be found, apologized for losing it, and promised that a conference call would be held the following Monday.

From this unfortunate episode, it would seem that those who don't know Mrs. Tan very well, such as the doctors at the hospital, see her broken English, howsoever expressed, as an excuse not to take her seriously and to treat her like a second-class citizen.

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