Multiple Voices: A Conversation About the Proper Use of the Mother Tongue, Essay Example

            Language has long been noted as the foundation of every society, an element that binds everyone else in a state of understanding. At the turn of time, the culture of globalization comes into a brighter picture and more individuals have realized that language did not only serve as the foundation of their identity, but also a bridge towards connecting to other individuals from other countries and cultures. Ever since the introduction of globalization in the society, language-structure has began to change and the realization of its role in creating a single identity among communities have also taken a greater stance in establishing a more convincing condition of global camaraderie among people of all cultures. The conversation below gives proof on how such mixing of cultures occur in line with the development of language-use.

Tan: Well, I am not a scholar of English or Literature. I cannot give you much more than personal opinion on the English language and its variations in this country or others…” (p 243) nonetheless, I could say that language is considered as the basic foundation of social connection between individuals coming from different backgrounds and different cultures.

Zentella: That is true. However, with globalization immensely enveloping the society today, it is undeniable that the process of utilizing language as a means of connection has also changed. This especially includes the use of English as an international language.

I can say this as I have observed that “monolinguals adjust [to the new system of language in their communities] through switching phonological, grammatical and discourse features within one linguistic code.” (p 213)

Tan: I agree with you. The truth is, ever since the onset of international globalization campaign, the use of English as the international language has prompted non-English-speaking countries to adapt a system of education that would inculcate the said language into their learning. Many believed that this aspect of educational development would have a great impact on how the younger generations are prepared to face the challenges of a new and more progressive world ahead of them.

Zentella: Yes, it did help some, but let’s face it, not all individuals who come out of their country and go to America are able to have access to such educational provisions. Most likely, at least 45% of the total immigrants in America every year come from average families who are searching to have better lives in the US. In search of a better job, they take the risk, even though they know a little English. Hence, they use code switching.

Code Switching is a characteristic of the many parts of the world where to or more speech communities live in close contact…” (p 214).

Tan: I hear you. I have experienced that fact myself. The truth is, my mother, a Chinese national moved here in the States in search of a better life. However, she specifically decided to learn English along the way. It was an intense desire to find a way to immerse in the culture and later on learn from it in a more practical manner. In my case, as I observe my mother’s condition, I’d say she did the best she could to immerse herself in the culture and the language used by the American society. It has been evident though through her example that the mother tongue she spoke [which is Chinese] never left her even though she tried to immerse in this new society. Truth is, when she speaks English today, her listeners would actually know that she is not an American and that she has a Chinese decent.

Zentella: Really? How did you feel about that?

Tan: Well, I would be hypocritical if I said “I was ok with it”. The truth is, I was not. And I often feel embarrassed when my mother spoke to bank tellers, restaurant crews and other individuals in the community who pretended not to understand what she was saying. We often get into instances when my mother would not receive good service or she would not receive any service at all. That’s when I finally decided I’d learn how to speak English well. Nonetheless, later on, I realized that even I incurred such grammatical mistakes in English, and yet the people closest to me, like my husband, understand me perfectly. I specifically understood about this especially when I realized the difference of my critique and my mother as they reacted to my book. Apart from what any critic had to say about my writing, I knew I had succeeded where it counted when my mother finished reading my book and gave me her verdict “So easy to read”” (p 248).

Zentelle: You’re not alone. Immigrants from the Latin American region as well as other Spanish-speaking countries experience the same thing. What they do is to utilize bilingual switching wherein they use the English language alongside their own. This way, they create Spanglish, a language that is duly theirs; a matter that preserves not only their culture but also their identity as a Spanish-speaking community.

Tan: Yes, I heard of that.

Zentelle: It is most often than not viewed as a means of cultural survival. People, when pushed out off their comfort zone often feel uneasy and notably considering themselves to not belong within the new community. To cope up, they tend to create something that could be called their own and shall stand as their primary identity in the society they are living in. For the Spanish-decent immigrants, Spanglish is what makes them different.

Tan: But, does not that involve them in a more discriminative position where as they are considered to be sloppy speakers of English?

Zentelle: the truth is, it does. No matter, the occurrence of such language choice has been a wide-spread culture among many immigrants today that it does appear to be their identity already. In fact, at some point, Americans are considered to be adjusting to the culture and are likely copying the same pattern of language. To some Americans, it seemed “cool”, hence, they adapt to it.

Tan: In that case, we could actually conclude that language is indeed an essential aspect of one’s identity. It does need to be perfect, it simply needs to be understandable and have a special meaning to those who one belongs with.

Relatively, as it could be learned from this conversation, people tend to adjust to the lifestyle presented to them by the conditions of globalization. The consideration over such changes specifically managed to adjust the role of language in modern communities governed by the effects of globalization. As it could be seen, cultures tend to mix up together to create new identities that would set them apart from their original culture into a new one through the use of connective language.


Chomsky, Noam (1957). Syntactic Structures. The Hague/Paris: Mouton. pp. 15.

Tan, Amy. Mother Tongue. Chapter 4: Multilingual USA.

Zentella, Ana Celia. The Hows and Whys of Spanglish. Chapter 4: Multilingual USA.