Explain the title for "Mother Tongue."

The title "Mother Tongue" for Amy Tan's essay has both denotative and connotative meaning. It suggests the intimate language that she shares with her mother while also more objectively observing the complications of being raised with one language and being forced to learn a new one as an adult immigrant.

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The title of Amy Tan's essay "Mother Tongue" is meant to have a few different meanings. One's mother tongue is the language that one grows up speaking; for Tan's mother, it was the Mandarin dialect of Chinese. Because she immigrated to the United States as an adult,...

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The title of Amy Tan's essay "Mother Tongue" is meant to have a few different meanings. One's mother tongue is the language that one grows up speaking; for Tan's mother, it was the Mandarin dialect of Chinese. Because she immigrated to the United States as an adult, Tan's mother's mastery of English was not nearly as fluent. The bulk of Tan's essay centers on her feelings about the way her mother speaks English; this is another intended meaning of mother tongue in that it is the language she uses with English speakers. It is also denotes the intimate language that Tan and her mother share; it is their own idiosyncratic way of communicating, mother to daughter.

Tan confesses to sometimes being embarrassed by her mother's heavily accented English and inability to fully express herself in the second language. Their already fraught relationship is exacerbated by a teen-aged Tan having to speak for her mother when there was business to be conducted. She also notes that her mother understands English spoken by others quite well even though she responds imperfectly as a speaker.

Overall, the title of the essay speaks most to Tan's relationship to her mother and her way of communicating with her daughter and the rest of the English-speaking world that surrounds her as an immigrant.

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