The Impact Of Language On Identity
Our tongue possesses the ability to express intimate thoughts and convey emotions. The cornerstone of communication is language, for without it, self-expression would be humdrum. The author of “Mother Tongue”, Amy Tan along with Eudora Welty who penned “One Writer’s Beginnings” evolved into extraordinary writers because of their similar, yet different upbringings. A love of language coupled with supportive mothers was instrumental in Tan and Welty’s decision to pursue writing professionally.
Growing up in a Chinese-American household resulted in Tan perfecting the art of code-switching. She wields her qualifications as a writer to express that “Language is the tool of my trade. And I use them all – all the Englishes I grew up with”. Her assertion indicates that she rotated between two Englishes, a proper and “broken” one, and it was implemented depending on the occasion. A setting requiring poise is where Tan utilized conventional English, even if it were lacking in lucidity but in the comfort of her home is predominantly where the aberrant syntax prevailed. The preferred English that Tan and her mother conversed with was regarded as “fractured” and remained incomprehensible to non-native speakers. Unsurprisingly, fast-paced businesses shunned her mother and ensuing from that was Tan’s responsibility to grow up and handle Mrs. Tan’s transactions. Together, they established a rapport, which over time diminished the embarrassment Tan felt before and replaced it with a deeper appreciation because she acknowledged that her mother’s articulations “Helped shape the way I saw things, expressed things, made sense of the world”. The evolution of her passion of language was not straightforward, considering the hurdles along her path. Whilst an average student in English class, where she endured most challenges, it’s unquestionably that Tan was persistent. It is that very persistence that remained with her and was applied when teachers and employers disheartened her by belittling her writing. Her rebellious nature and adamancy to break a stereotype of Asians working in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) careers is commendable, as is her desire to sustain “her mother intent, her passion, her imagery, the rhythms of her speech and the nature of her thoughts”.
The essays Tan produced immortalized the bond shared between mother and daughter while simultaneously appeasing to her appetite to write. Indistinguishable to Tan, Welty had a lasting maternal bond. Her home in Jackson was abounding with books and she quickly realized that “any room in our house, at any time of day, was there to read in, or be read to”. Welty recalls that her mother, being devout to raising her daughter with an admiration for books would regularly indulge in the wonders of literature and captured the youngster’s attention with exhilarating impressions. The availability of pieces within their home resulted in a young Welty developing a mania for books and she gradually absorbed the essence of them. Moreover, she valued the alphabet, comparing it to the “keystone of knowledge”, thus exemplifying that she respected the crux of our language and not just the finished product of compositions. Not only did her parents endow her with an array of books but also support. Welty had an inclination towards dedicating her life to books upon discovering that authors were individuals. She exudes, “I cannot remember a time when I was not in love with them – with the books themselves, cover and binding and the paper they were printed on, with their smell and their weight and with their possession in my arms, captured and carried off to myself”, emphasizing how beloved these pieces were to her. The encouragement and resources obtained from her parents were fundamental because it inspired Welty to be the kind of author she grew up reading. To elucidate, she strived to birth three-dimensional characters and captivating plots in her own literary masterpieces. More importantly, the animated readings her mother reenacted is where Welty first derived a yearning for learning from.
Conclusively, language is an apparatus that often goes unnoticed but has the potential to enact change and help form identities. Identity is not something that is easily found and can take decades to embrace and adapt to. Fortunately, with the power of language and encouraging mothers, Tan and Welty were able to construct individuality because of simple devices, such as language and metamorphosed into illustrious writers by sharing their experiences.
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