Amy Tan’s Use Of Pathos, Ethos, And Logos In Mother Tongue

Is English considered a single language? There are inferences that English is a single language, but in actuality, individuals foster distinct versions of English as their mother tongue. An essayist, Amy Tan recalls “all the Englishes that she grew up with,” all of which influence her perception of the world and her own English. In “Mother Tongue,” Amy Tan bequeaths readers with an insight into her world of writing and her perpetual devotion to better her adroitness with the English language. Amy Tan uses pathos, ethos, and logos to prove her mother tongue substantially assisted in progressing her expertise in English and literature.

As an Asian American who has lived through a myriad of experiences, Amy Tan exhibits ethos in her essay to appeal to the audience by establishing her creditability as a writer. For example, she avows “I am not a scholar of English or literature…I am a writer” to earn the readers’ respect. Furthermore, Tan exemplifies ethos by speaking upon surveys that claim Asian-American students capitulate to societal pressures. In particular, Tan deems her ethnic background as a constraint to prospects in life, forcing her, as well as other Asian-Americans who speak “broken” English at home, to inherit a predisposition that diverts them from writing. To support this statement, Tan claims “teachers…are steering them away from writing and into math and science, which is what happened to me. ” Aside from ethical aspects, Tan also establishes an emotional approach to discuss her experiences as well.

Amy Tan adopts a poignant approach to present the inequitable experiences her mother frequently encountered due to her “broken” English. In particular, Tan describes the embarrassment she undergoes because of her mother’s incapability to speak fluent English. To support this statement, Tan recalls “plenty of empirical evidence…: the fact that people in department stores, at banks and at restaurants did not take her seriously, did not give her a good service, pretended not to understand her and even acted as if they did not hear her. ” After years of analyzing her mother, and her own feelings, Tan comes to terms with the fact that she understands how her mother speaks. Ultimately, Tan makes a sentimental statement saying, “I wanted to capture what language ability tests could never reveal: her intent, her passion, her imagery, the rhythms of her speech and the nature of her thoughts. ” Tan’s use of pathos stimulates the audience to feel sympathy for her mother and other individuals who have dealt with, and continue to deal with similar situations that Tan describes.

Lastly, Tan employs a logical strategy to provide evidence that her mother’s ability to comprehend complex literature cannot be defined by the “broken” English she uses to communicate. Tan’s mother demonstrates her ability to understand people’s “perfect” English, alongside complex literature such that Tan articulates “…my mother’s expressive command of English belies how much she actually understands. She reads the Forbes report, listens to Wall Street Week…and reads all of Shirley MacLaine’s books with ease — all kinds of things I can’t begin to understand. ” The logic behind this validates an important point that Tan tries to bring forward. This supports the idea that if her mother can comprehend English perfectly while speaking “broken” English, then perhaps other people who are treated as if they cannot understand, actually do so effortlessly.

Conclusively, Amy Tan devotes emotional, ethical, and logical strategies to convey her argument that any language is not a single language and in fact, individuals should be able to develop a version that pertains to them. In subsequent instances alluding to Tan’s mother’s “broken English”, Tan delineates how people develop preconceived notions of her mother’s intelligence, merely on how fluently she spoke English. To improve this underlying notion of suppressing different mother tongues, we should empower one another to speak in the language that we are most intimate with. Consequently, many “Amy Tan” cases will evolve in which a mother tongue considerably advances an individual’s expertise in English and literature.

10 October 2020
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