What effect does the mother's broken English and occasional Chinese expression create in the dialogue of "Two Kinds"?

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jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The mother in Amy Tan's short story "Two Kinds" was born in China, and she speaks English the way an adult who immigrated from China to California would likely speak. For example, while she is watching Shirley Temple and urging her daughter to become an acting prodigy like Shirley Temple, the mother says, "'Ni kan,' my mother said, as Shirley's eyes flooded with tears. 'You already know how. Don't need talent for crying!'" ("Ni kan" means "you look" in Chinese.)

The mother's way of speaking has several effects in the story. First, it creates a realistic portrait of her in the reader's mind, so that the reader knows what her English is like. In addition, it shows that she doesn't always totally understand American culture and the new world where she finds herself after having left China. In addition, it shows the gaps between her and her daughter, who was born in the United States and who speaks English like a native. The mother's way of speaking is occasionally very funny, too, as she has a direct way of saying what's on her mind, even if her way of expressing herself is awkward at times. Even if she hasn't totally mastered the English language, the mother speaks anyway, showing that she is a person determined to get ahead in America.