English as a Second Language
The problem is mother tongue affecting English language education and speech for immigrant families. There is need to bring to light the difficulties in communication faced by people who have mother tongue influence and those of whom English is not a first language. Mother tongue influences the English spoken, especially for immigrant families. It is more difficult for an immigrant to not only learn the English language, but also to effectively communicate in it. For example, Tan’s friends could not understand her mother when she spoke. The doctors, bank people and her stoke broker did not take her seriously because of the English she spoke that was referred to as “broken” English. Asian students from immigrant families found it difficult to pursue literature and creative writing, because mother tongue influenced how they understood and communicated in English. In Tan’s case, it is evident that she is forced to speak different types of English when she is around different audiences (Tan 45-8). For instance, when with her mother, she speaks simple English, but when giving a speech to an audience, she uses more complex English that she knows her mother would not understand. The question is does it matter if the English spoken is “broken”, despite the emotion and imagery that one creates when communicating in it?
The issue here is the fact that one cannot be taken seriously just because he cannot communicate in fluent English. Tan’s mother could not be taken good care of as a patient by her doctors just because her English did not suit their ears. She had to call her daughter for the doctors to pay more attention to her and apologize for having lost her scan results. Her life depended on the diagnosis and she trusted the doctors with her life and yet they failed her just because of the type of English she spoke (Tan 49-51). What if she was trying to communicate a very important detail about her health status, but no one paid attention to what she had to say and would cost her a life? Is it that difficult to try and understand someone else’s English even though it is not as good as yours? Does it mean that if I cannot say “I need your assistance” and instead say “me need help” no one will pay attention?
In Tan’s article, it is realizable that most people are shallow-minded and would stop at the fact that one cannot express themselves clearly through the English they spoke. Most Asian students were pushed into studying sciences and mathematics just because English is not their first language or is influenced by their mother tongue. What people forget is that no matter what English one speaks, they can still communicate their emotions and feelings (Tan 49-50).
It is clear that mother tongue can directly or indirectly affect an individual’s English proficiency. One is affected directly if English is not their first language and indirectly if they live with people that have mother tongue influence. Nonetheless, this should not dictate the type of life one gets to live. Mother tongue influence is an intriguing and significant topic, because it is an educational issue that has been neglected for awhile, yet there are people having difficulty because of the type of English they speak. There are many other languages in the world, English being one of them. Hence, it is obvious that not everyone will speak the American or British English fluently and properly (Tan 50). Many people do not understand the level of globalization and the fact that the world is having even more interactions amongst the people. Take for example a meeting between the U.S President and the Chinese Prime Minister (Hooks 300-2). The two speak two totally different English, yet they rule countries and always find a way to work together and make their countries better. They exchange words and hence understand each other in whatever English they speak.
Mother tongue influence is an issue that warrants further investigation in terms of the percentage of people affected directly or indirectly. Further research on immigrant families will determine if life experiences and prejudice they have faced are because of their broken English and if they are now appropriately treated. Also, research in schools and service industry providers to gather information on how they treat/serve people with mother tongue influence. It can help to find out the extent/level of this issue (Hooks 295-7). Research results should help propel this issue forward in terms of what the society can do in order to correct the situation. Lighter research questions like, “have you ever been badly served just because the other party pretended not to understand what you were saying?” could be asked to the immigrants. Service providers can be asked: “Have you ever wrongly served a customer because you could not understand what they were saying?”
In conclusion, it is alarming how people with broken English can be treated as if they do not deserve any preferential treatment. Their lack of “Harvard or Oxford University” English does not warrant the type of treatment they receive from some shallow-minded individuals. It is up to the society to step up and view this as a difference among people and not a reason to discriminate anyone. Chinese, Mexicans, Portuguese, Indians and Italians should not be treated differently in the country they live in just because people refuse to try to understand their English. People are not perfect and should stop giving others a hard time and making a nightmare out of their lives just because their English is “broken”.