There is a backward thinking that plagues’ America as of this moment, and that is the thought that we are superior than the rest of the word. We claim that English language is universal and people with color are lesser humans than we are. We even have terms such as “apples” for Indians, “Oreo cookies” for African Americans, and “bananas” for Chinese. These terms are used to refer to skin color of cultural minorities who have embraced the American culture and makes them “white inside” (Wayson,1939). This metaphor is a clear manifestation of racial discrimination.
Language being a tool for communication requires fluency in its use and construction. It is through language that we are able to effectively communicate our needs, wants, and messages to other people. In the case of immigrants such as the mother of Amy Tan who doesn’t have a good grasp of the English language it can be a disadvantage for her in communicating with native English speakers. Since she has a strong cultural background and didn’t learn English as a second language she has trouble in communicating and is often subjected to discrimination. Mandarin Chinese does not follow the Subject-Verb-Object sentence pattern. It’s the other way around, thus the sentences “Du Yusong having business like fruit stand” and “I gone to boy’s side, they have YMCA dinner. Chinese age I was nineteen” came to be. As the author Amy Tan said, these sentences may seem like nonsense mumblings to some, she understood it quite well and do people close to her. That is called language variance. Even English language sound different from a state to another.
However, effective communication in a predominantly English speaking nation requires a person to be adept with language for him to effectively communicate his message. On the other hand, language should not define who we are. Our knowledge in the language should not limit our opportunities just like what happened to Amy Tans’ mother. It does not follow that when one is not able to speak straight English he is somehow ignorant or stupid. He may have trouble expressing himself through English but his capacities as a person remains.
For children of minority groups who are raised in the USA, it is natural for them to absorb and immerse in there immediate environment. Unlike adult, children learn faster when it comes to language. They absorb the culture more quickly and are able to have a good grasp of the language. They adapt more quickly and are able to express themselves in using English in the same way as a native American could.
This however brings certain pros and cons for the child and his culture. When he adapts the English language and culture and begins to despise his cultural roots, just like what happened to Amy Tan when she felt ashamed of her mother, this is when the metaphors such as “apples” and “bananas” holds true. The child can entirely forget his culture, adapt the Western way of thinking and think of himself highly just because he can speak the English language fluently. This adds up to the culture of prejudice. On the other hand, proper facility of the language can give the child more options in life. Proper and efficient communication can make things easier for him just like what Amy Tan did when her mother had trouble with the hospital and the stockbroker.
Language, as a tool should be used effectively, however, it should define or limit who we are and what our capabilities are.
Choy, Wayson. I’m a Banna and Proud of it.1939. 3 October 2008. http://www.geocities.com/dhlphenuse/banana.html
Tan, Amy. Mother Tongue. 3 October 2008