So, I'm taking an English class at my local CC and I've recently read an Essay by Amy Tan, Mother's Tongue. In all honesty, I normally don't do this kind of thing but well frankly, this particular piece kind of gave me some much needed perspective on the relationship between, myself, my language and my family and their's
Amy Tan's essay, Mother Tongue as published in, Beyond Borders: A Cultural Reader. 2nd edition; Wadsworth Publisher, 2002, explained the relationship between Tan, her mother and the English language. She talks of English in a loving manner and equally so she speaks of her mother's ability to use it in both a negative and positive way. Especially in the way people outside of her family view her mother's language. She calls it a "Broken" English. This in some ways has given me perspective and a new way to look at my relationship with my mother and her use of English and how I view it and how I imagine others view it.
A few days ago, my mother and I went to see her therapist together. As to respect her wishes, i will not state here why she sees one but I am certain that anyone with half a brain can figure this out. There was a particular moment during the session where the therapist asked my mother a question involving her relationship with my grandmother; without looking at my mom and only feeling the tilt of her head and her gaze for the briefest moment, I cut in and answer the question with the eloquence that she expected that I would. Normally I wouldn't have even noticed this one tiny gesture but her therapist pointed it out to both of us and in that moment so many things about our relationship became very clear to me. My mother being raised with not the best of an education and being of a minority (Like I'm obviously not, right?) lacks an expansive vocabulary or the actual ability to express her ideas in the same way that I can. Up until that moment, it had never really occurred to me that she and I are as close as we are nor are we as dependent on each other as we obviously are. The understanding and intuitive nature of our relationship is almost awe inspiring to me. With one gesture I explained exactly what she felt and she knew that I would without a second thought.
My mom is Half African American and a mix of different European nationalities. But because of the time she grew up in, she never was able to learn of her other heritage. Both of her parents are mixed race. She is very African American, and she obviously speaks that specific variation of the English language. AAVE. Because I am albino, I never was around those kind of people, outside of my home. Most of my friends growing up, were White. So, if you heard me speaking to a relative, you would not think that we were from the same family. This has always driven a wedge in our relationship, my mother and I. I just speak too differently for her taste, she doesn't understand a lot of what I am saying because her vocabulary is limited compared to mine and I sometimes forget that.
In that aspect alone, I somewhat disagree with Tan's stance on how her language and understanding was solely dictated by her family's way of speaking and expression. Though my mother and I both speak English, it commonly feels like we don't. Some of the slang terms that she uses leave me scratching my head in wonder. Being who I am, I've never really given much thought or shown any interest in learning or keeping track of how people tend to use language in my neighborhood. I'm a bit of a man apart. I am not saying that Tan is wrong at all in her belief that her family colored her language so to speak but more so I am saying that it can go either way and in my case, my language was largely taught by the people I was around outside of my home.