Mother Tongue: The Struggles of Communication Communication is arguably the most essential and powerful part of everyday life. Societies' ability to run smoothly, efficiently and benefit as many people as possible, hinges greatly on communication and how effectively it is used. We need to communicate to get new and innovative ideas across, to state opinions, to sort our arguments and most importantly, to better understand those around us.
The short story Mother Tongue by Amy Tan addresses the reality that the inability to communicate effectively and see the different perspectives of those around us can hinder the flow of society and often block us from new ideas and potential. Communication is different for everyone as shown by the narrator’s mother, and how she has difficulty expressing her ideas so that others understand and respect her.
We can see that she is still a very intelligent woman who has a great understanding of the world around her even though some view her language as “broken”. Amy argues that standardized tests are not adequate indicators of intelligence because there are many different types of intelligence, and the test only covers one type. Lastly, because the narrator has grown up with what others see as limited exposure to “proper” language, she is dissuaded by teachers (as our many others in similar circumstances) from pursuing a future in English.
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The theme of the importance of communication in this story is very prevalent in today’s society because of the recent flood of immigrants to Canada, and the importance that they integrate well into Canadian society so we can run smoothly as the diverse country that we are. We need to reach an understanding that because lifestyles and habits l differ from our own, it does not make them worse or less valuable.
Amy Tan Mother Tongue Summary
Summary for Amy Tan's "Mother Tongue"
The essay is chiefly about the writer's own rumination and judgment about how "broken English" compared to Standard English. Moreover it came to her sense that language not only "authorizes" individuals to participate as members of a designated community, it is also a essential key in enabling individuals to establish and define the dimensions of their identity. Though a lover of language and an erudite lover of language she is, she has never recognized this concept until she realized that she has never appeared eloquent and rhetoric in front of her mother.
She once again consciously aware of the "type" of language she used on daily and intimacy basis when she noted that her husband did not have a slightest reaction when she uttered a grammatically wrong phrase. Thinking about it, she knew it was because for over twenty years living together, that "wrong" kind of English has been used frequently in their conjugal life. And it came to her sense the presence of a different sort of language, the language of intimacy, the familial English.
To demonstrate this kind of family talk, Mrs. Tan quoted a story that her mother had told her. It was a very trivial story but the thing that worth looking at was her mother's grammar. The quoted parts were filled with grammatical mistakes and the text was quite confusing. Yet, her mother had better command in English than all that was ostensibly showed in her story. She could read very sophisticated and high level documents without much difficulty. However, some of Tan's friends confessed that her mother language was not very comprehensive because most of them could only get 50% or less what Tan's mother was trying to say. But to the writer's, her mother tongues was as vivid, graphical, and comprehensive as ever as she confides that it was this language that she discovered the world.
No matter how she appreciated her mother tongue as a tool that had enabled her to know the world, she realized that it was a "broken English" though she was quite agitated about calling it "broken" since she could find no way to fix it or to bring about its accuracy, and correctness. She also disturbed by other terms such as "limited English" because she thought it also implied the edge of the understanding of the speaker of other. Moreover, she feel abash by her mother English because her mother's imperfect English makes Tan feel like her thinking is also defective. And not only Tan, but many others never took her mom seriously because either they did not comprehend her or did not hear her.
Tan's mother was also conscious of the limitations of her English. That's why she used to have Tan to answer phone calls which led to troublesome and tricky situations in which Tan had to yell and acting rudely at other people. Or when her mother was frustrated with the people at the hospital for not giving her an apology for losing her CAT and she exacerbated the problem with her broken English until Tan came. Arm with her proper English, Tan helped talk her mom out of the situation and help her to achieve what she wanted
Tan also blamed her mom's limiting English responsible for her limiting possibilities in life. She thought it was the reason for all her not-doing-so-well in Verbal skill and also responsible for her ill performance in achievement tests. She agreed that the ever-changing nature of language exacerbated the situation as she cannot see the reason and the "science" behind an English question due to a limiting view influenced by her mother's "broken English." This made great impact not only on Tan but also on others who grew up in a Broken-English speaking environment as she tried to explain why there are more Asians-Americans in physical science class rather than literature and social science.
She started writing fiction in her impeccable English in 1985. Yet, she changed her mind and decided to write a book about mothers using the language that she has been growing up with, her broken mother tongue, in which she captured the language she and her mother used to talk to each other, the English language that is a verbatim translation from Chinese, the essence and the color of her mother's internal language. She preserved those things, things that will never ever be reflected by a language test. Albeit whatever the critics might say about her work, Tan was satisfied to know that she has won the heart of the readers who she had targeted as her mother has given her a verdict, "So easy to read."
I. My background and how it has not hindered my learning English language. I come from a Jewish Italian parent but it has not affected me or my language as I do have perfect English. I compare my experience similar to Amy Tan and I can definitely correlate with her with respect to coming from non English background but it has not hindered my quest to learn English language.
I. About Amy Tan’s essay – “Mother Tongue”
In Amy Tan's essay - "Mother Tongue" (1990), Tan tells to her readers that she was introduced to the language (English) in multiple ways. She gives many examples of different languages from the different experiences in her life. Tan's purpose in this essay is to show how her mother tongue affected her English and made her improve her English. The author's readers and audience is people of different nations and multiple languages. II. How she describes her journey to overcome her background and learn English language.
Amy Tan's Mother Tongue was uplifting since she talked about how she eventually overcame the judgement about her nationality. It is very moving to see that Tan embraces her nationality while using English language day to day basis. She explains language in a very beautiful way. She really has passion for language (English). The point she was trying to make in this essay was that although she is from Chinese background, she has succeeded in learning English language thus proving many people wrong. One of the main points of this essay is that words are more than mere words; one has to look beyond them to understand the true and complete meaning. For instance, her mother did not speak perfect English, but the way her mother pointed out some of the ideas across was really important.
She has said that standard tests need not always determine a person's intelligence, by this she is trying to convey that people think differently and have different types of intelligence, and hence these standard tests can only measure a certain type of intelligence, so it is unfair. In the Amy Tan's - Mother Tongue, she states that “she is someone who has always loved language. She is fascinated by language in daily life.
She spends a great deal of her time thinking about the power of language –“the way it can evoke an emotion, a visual image, a complex idea, or a simple truth."(Amy Tan’s Mother Tongue, 63). Her words clearly show her zeal to learn English language and her passion for it. She gives few more examples of her mother’s broken English as she calls it “He come to my wedding. I did not see, I heard it. I gone to boy's side, they have dinner. Chinese age I was nineteen." (Tan’s Mother tongue, 64)
This story somewhat reminds me of my own self and also of many such people of different nationalities and languages. What I have learned from this narrative -Amy Tan “Mother Tongue” is that I just was seeing in some way relationship between my mother and me. I do not judge anyone who has broken but I started looking for something that might be helpful for me to learn from these people. My experience with people who speak broken English is that they would have good literacy. This narrative focuses on ways to look at the issues of language and identity in different ways that validate many languages that we use. It helps us to gain competence in our ability to choose the right language usage for different situations and explore language and identity.
The Importance of Mother Tongue-Based Schooling for Educational Quality
While there are many factors involved in delivering quality basic education, language is clearly the key to communication and understanding in the classroom. Many developing countries are characterized by individual as well as societal multilingualism, yet continue to allow a single foreign language to dominate the education sector.
Instruction through a language that learners do not speak has been called “submersion” because it is analogous to holding learners under water without teaching them how to swim. Compounded by chronic difficulties such as low levels of teacher education, poorly designed, inappropriate curricula and lack of adequate school facilities, submersion makes both learning and teaching extremely difficult, particularly when the language of instruction is also foreign to the teacher.
Mother tongue-based bilingual programs use the learner’s first language, known as the L1, to teach beginning reading and writing skills along with academic content. The second or foreign language, known as the L2, should be taught systematically so that learners can gradually transfer skills from the familiar language to the unfamiliar one. Bilingual models and practices vary as do their results, but what they have in common is their use of the mother tongue at least in the early years so that students can acquire and develop literacy skills in addition to understanding and participating in the classroom.
Bilingual as opposed to monolingual schooling offers significant pedagogical advantages which have been reported consistently in the academic literature: Use of a familiar language to teach beginning literacy facilitates an understanding of sound-symbol or meaning-symbol correspondence. Learning to read is most efficient when students know the language and can employ psycholinguistic guessing strategies; likewise, students can communicate through writing as soon as they understand the rules of the orthographic (or other written) system of their language.
In contrast, submersion programs may succeed in teaching students to decode words in the L2, but it can take years before they discover meaning in what they are “reading. ”
Since content area instruction is provided in the L1, the learning of new concepts is not postponed until children become competent in the L2. Unlike submersion teaching, which is often characterised by lecture and rote response, bilingual instruction allows teachers and students to interact naturally and negotiate meanings together, creating participatory learning environments that are conducive to cognitive as well as linguistic development. Explicit teaching of the L2 beginning with oral skills allows students to learn the new language through communication rather than memorization. In submersion schooling teachers are often forced to translate or code-switch to convey meaning, making concept learning inefficient and even impeding language learning, while bilingual programs allow for systematic teaching of the L2.
Transfer of linguistic and cognitive skills is facilitated in bilingual programs
Once students have basic literacy skills in the L1 and communicative skills in the L2, they can begin reading and writing in the L2, efficiently transferring the literacy skills they have acquired in the familiar language. The pedagogical principles behind this positive transfer of skills are Cummins’ (1991, 1999) interdependence theory and the concept of common underlying proficiency, whereby the knowledge of language, literacy and concepts learned in the L1 can be accessed and used in the second language once oral L2 skills are developed, and no re-learning is required.
Consistent with these principles, it is possible for children schooled only in the L2 to transfer their knowledge and skills to the L1, but the process is highly inefficient as well as being unnecessarily difficult. Code-switching and code-mixing involve alternation between languages, and are common communication strategies in bi- and multilingual contexts. Code alternation functions best when all parties are competent speakers of the languages involved, but in submersion classrooms it is more of a coping strategy for dealing with a foreign instructional medium and does not necessarily contribute to second language learning.
As specialists Lanauze ; Snow explain, transfer means that “language skills acquired in a first language can, at least if developed beyond a certain point in L1, be recruited at relatively early stages of L2 acquisition for relatively skilled performance in L2, thus shortcutting the normal developmental progression in L2” (1989: 337).
Student learning can be accurately assessed in bilingual classrooms
When students can express themselves, teachers can diagnose what has been learned, what remains to be taught and which students need further assistance.
In submersion schooling cognitive learning and language learning are confounded, making it difficult for teachers to determine whether students have difficulty understanding the concept itself, the language of instruction, or the language of the test.
- The affective domain, involving confidence, self-esteem and identity, is strengthened by use of the L1, increasing motivation and initiative as well as creativity.
L1 classrooms allow children to be themselves and develop their personalities as well as their intellects, unlike submersion classrooms where they are forced to sit silently or repeat mechanically, leading to frustration and ultimately repetition, failure and dropout.
Students become bilingual and biliterate
Bilingual programs encourage learners to understand, speak, read and write in more than one language. In contrast, submersion programs attempt to promote skills in a new language by eliminating them from a known language, which may actually limit learner competence in both.
All of these advantages are based on two assumptions: one, that basic human needs are being met so that schooling can take place; and two, that mother tongue-based bilingual schooling can be properly implemented. Simply changing the language of instruction without resolving other pressing social and political issues is not likely to result in significant improvement in educational services. However, because language cross-cuts race, ethnicity, gender, and poverty, even minimally implemented bilingual programs have the potential to reach those who have traditionally been left behind by L2 submersion schooling.
This paper will discuss how choosing an appropriate language of instruction has positive implications for education in terms of both increasing access and improving quality.
Philippine basic education is now at a critical crossroad. It now calls for the revisiting of our commitment to Education for All (EFA) 2015. All stakeholders have to be vigilant and involved. Otherwise, education will just be a weak transformative power in our society.
Instead of education for all, it will be education for the few; instead of seeing Filipino youth become critical thinkers, coherent communicators, and productive citizens; we will see a generation of unreflective and mediocre mouthpieces of languages not their own. We affirm the need to improve learning competencies in all subject areas, including English. Our educational system has to move forward following a roadmap drawn by experts in language and education based on empirical proofs. Experiences of other multilingual countries all point to the mother tongue as the best language of learning, especially in the early grades.
The mother tongue is the most effective bridge to and foundation for the learning of other languages like English. At this stage, however, many of our lawmakers and national leaders still hold on to the unfounded but long-held belief that an English-dominated initial basic education will produce superior learners. We submit that such educational strategy will only benefit a very small number of Filipinos—those who belong to families where English is the home language. But the truth is that the majority of our school children come from homes where the mother tongue is the predominant language.
This explains their marginalization in the classroom. Such marginalized learners, as pointed out by scientific evidences face the double burden of learning. They are struggling to learn the 3Rs on top of the big burden of learning an alien language in which they are taught. This predicament is one of the major culprits of poor performance and high drop-out rates. All of these imply the needed approach-- teach the yet unknown 3Rs through the already familiar local language and culture, build the learner’s capacity to learn and introduce a second language with the correct phasing.
With such mother tongue-based multi-lingual education (MLE) framework, the mastery of all the learning areas including English is effectively attained. It is a basic truth that language embodies a person's cultural identity and heritage. To uphold this truth, even international law guarantees and directs states’ educational system to develop respect for the child’s own cultural identity and language. Thus, we reject any assertion that a local language may be inferior, inadequate and poses an obstacle to learning.
We also reject the usual argument that MLE is costly and, therefore, very hard to implement in the face of limited financial resources. Papua New Guinea, a poor Asian country of more than 800 languages, has demonstrated that reliance on local initiatives and resources for MLE is highly feasible and substantially saves on much costs of developing and producing learning materials. Recently, our own DepEd’s Agusan Pilot MLE Study corroborated the practicality and merits of local self-reliance and initiatives.
Thus, we submit that ultimately, to insist on teaching with an alien language is more costly and inefficient when children do not become functionally literate and hardly develop higher order thinking skills and whose English competencies are mediocre.
Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education
Many Filipino learners face barriers in education. One of these barriers is that our learners often begin their education in a language they do not understand. Because they do not understand the language of education, many learners become discouraged and tend to drop-out from school.
Content of material is often culturally distant or unfamiliar to the learners. The limited education that learners receive does not prepare them for lifelong learning. Mother tongue-based multilingual education (MLE) is a formal or nonformal education, in which the children’s mother tongue is used in the classroom as a bridge in learning Filipino and English. Children begin their education in a language they understand, their mother tongue, and develop a strong foundation in their mother language.
The purpose of a multilingual education program is to develop appropriate cognitive and reasoning skills enabling children to operate equally in different languages – starting in the mother tongue with transition to Filipino and then English. It is a structured program of language learning and cognitive development which provides learners with a strong educational foundation in the first language. If the mother tongue is not used, we create people who are illiterate in two languages.
Children do not become sufficiently fluent in their mother tongue (L1) in both oracy and literacy if their vocabulary in L1 is limited, thus restricting their ability to learn a second language (L2). A strong foundation in L1 is required for learning L2. Children’s understanding of concepts is limited or confused if leaning is only L2.
The benefits of MLE include the following
- Reduced drop-out
- Reduced repetition
- Children are attending school.
- Children are learning.
- Parents and community are involved.
- It is more cost - effective to implement mother tongue programs.
A region wide training was conducted last summer in preparation for this school year’s pilot implementation. Regional association of supervisors, school heads and teachers was organized during that training. Feedback gathered from the pilot implementers revealed that teachers find the use of the MTB-MLE very useful. Pupils are very participative and most of them have learned to read by this time. Although some teachers find it tiresome, especially in the preparation of materials, but they feel rewarded by seeing the enjoyment among the pupils in their learning experiences.
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