Literature Sample Paper


Possible topics for Composition:
How are the cross-cultural or cross-linguistic experiences Tan describes similar to or different from your own experiences? Why do these similarities or differences exist?
Write 5-paragraph Essay
Addition requires in your essay:
In your essay includes a thesis statement, Topic sentence for 3 body paragraph and conclusion.
We read about the personal experiences “Mother Tongue”-Amy Tan.
Include at least 3 relevant quotes from the text in your composition.
Use the correct MLA in-text citation for each quote.


Title: Classics English literature

Mother tongue is the language of one’s upbringing. It is the language that one associates with his cultural and social heritage, particularly family intimacy. In most cases, a mother tongue is an individual’s first language. This language always exerts an influence on the other languages that a person learns later on in life. Sometimes, children’s perception of their parents’ knowledge and experiences are limited by the variety of mother tongues that these parents speak. What these children fail to understand is that regardless of cross-linguistic differences in a parent’s use of mother tongue, language variety plays a key role in communication and expression of intimacy.

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People use their mother tongue to assert their social, cultural and class identity. In situations where there are variations in dialects, an individual’s mother tongue is a key indicator of one’s speech community. Some dialects of one’s mother tongue evoke negative prejudices, especially those that have very few speakers. In such cases, the speakers of the dominant variety tend to think that speakers of other forms of the language are deviating from the standard, acceptable form.

Tan talks about cross-linguistic differences that are similar to my own (433). First, I used to think that my mother’s way of speaking failed to reflect the norm as I grew up knowing it. I used to question her continued use of taboo words that she did not want us to use. The most surprising thing is that she used to use them in both formal and informal settings. The choice of words, I later learned, was a heritage she had borrowed from her grandmother.

Tan gives narrates how she had to pretend and take the role of her mother in a conversation with a stockbroker in New York. The author talks of how she used to despise her mother on account of his language. Tan thought that broken English is a reflection of ‘broken’ thought. ‘English limited my perception of my mother, Tan says (434). In reality, this is not the case. In my experiences with my mother’s use of English, I never accused her of expressing low-quality of thoughts just because of her poor choice of words (433).   

The most glaring similarity between Tan’s experience and mine is the use of the mother tongue in order to maintain intimacy with my parents. Tan recounts how she used the words ‘not waste money that way’ to advise her mother on the right piece of furniture to buy (434). Immediately, she realized that she has been speaking broken English with her mother over the last twenty years. Mother tongue, Tan realized, is the language of intimacy that one used to create social ties with family members.  

I encountered a similar experience when I was explaining to my mother about the requirements for college entry. In order to make her understand, I found myself speaking in phrases and not sentences. I was describing the items that every student was required to buy. I found it easy to communicate with her in broken English. I realized that if I used the ‘refined’ variety that I use with my schoolmates, I was only going to alienate her and she would not understand a thing about what I was saying.

Tan says ‘I was prompted by the experience to videotape and transcribe conversations of her mother during the usual family talk at home’ (434). For me, the experience inspired me to study linguistics. I was motivated to study more about the nature of language, its role in society, and how people use it in order to communicate in social contexts.


Tan, Amy. “Mother Tongue”, Enriching ESOL Pedagogy: readings and activities for engagement, reflection, and inquiry, Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2002.

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