2Learning Objective:To be able to use close reading strategies to analyse the structure, language and feelings of the poem ‘Search For My Tongue’.
3StarterMany people living in Britain speak English as a second language, think about the following statements and write a response to each:I don’t like it when I hear people in Britain speaking a foreign language. When they are in Britain they should speak English.It must be a real advantage to be able to slip between different languages.It must be really confusing to have to use two different languages.
4Starter2. If you are bi- or multi-lingual, what language do you dream in?3. People in different countries speak different languages; people living in different parts of the same country speak different dialects with different accents.How important is the way you talk and the language you use to you?If you moved to another country, how hard would you try to keep up your original language or accent?
5Sujata BhattSujata Bhatt was born in 1956 in India but later lived in the USA and Germany. She writes in both English and Gujarati, which she describes as her ‘mother tongue’. This poem was written when she was at university in America. She was worried she might forget her original language. She writes about being stuck between two cultures: "I have always thought of myself as an Indian who is outside India."
6Search For My TongueYou ask me what I mean by saying I have lost my tongue. I ask you, what would you do if you had two tongues in your mouth, and lost the first one, the mother tongue, and could not really know the other, the foreign tongue. You could not use them both together even if you thought that way. And if you lived in a place you had to speak a foreign tongue, your mother tongue would rot, rot and die in your mouth until you had to spit it out. I thought I spit it out but overnight while I dream,
7it grows back, a stump of a shoot grows longer, grows moist, grows strong veins, it ties the other tongue in knots, the bud opens, the bud opens in my mouth, it pushes the other tongue aside. Everytime I think I've forgotten, I think I've lost the mother tongue, it blossoms out of my mouth.
8First Reading‘Tongue’ seems to have more than one meaning in this poem. What are they?The script in the middle of the poem is Gujerati. Why do you think the poet suddenly changes the language of the poem?This comes from a longer poem; by the end of this extract has the poet found what she was looking for?
9Tongue Tied tongue-tied a part of the body Lost your tongue the language that you speak
10Lines What is happening? Search For My Tongue explores the conflict between the poet’s ‘mother tongue’ and the foreign language she also uses. There are three main parts to the poem but do you know what they are?LinesWhat is happening?1 - 15The poet explains that she is fluent in two languages. She uses the image of having “two tongues in your mouth” to convey the idea.
11Lines What is happening? Search For My Tongue explores the conflict between the poet’s ‘mother tongue’ and the foreign language she also uses.LinesWhat is happening?1 - 15The poet explains that she is fluent in two languages but she is worried that she might lose her mother tongue.When she dreams it is in her mother tongue (this section is written in Gujarati – the poet’s mother tongue).She describes how her mother tongue ‘grows back’ just when she thinks she has lost it.
12As we have seen the poem is written in three sections As we have seen the poem is written in three sections. In the first part Sujata Bhatt explains how difficult it is to speak two languages and conveys her fear that she may forget the language she grew up with.In the middle section (the centre of the conflict) she writes these ideas in Gujarati (lines 17 – 30). Then in the third section she translates these thoughts into English (lines 17-30). Here she concludes that that although her 'mother tongue' dies during the day, it 'grows back' in her dreams at night, remaining strong, healthy and robust.Structure
13Structure1. Lines are the Gujerati version of lines Why do you think the poet structured her poem in this way, with the Gujertai section in the middle of the two English sections?2. Why do you think she put the Gujertai version before its meaning in English?
14Structure3. In an autobiographical poem, you might expect the poet to write continually in the first person. In the opening section of this poem, the writing is shaped as an answer to a question and there is much use of the second person. Why do you think the poet chose to do this?
15ImageryIn Search For My Tongue Sujata Bhatt says that knowing two languages is like having 'two tongues in your mouth’.The poet uses an extended metaphor to express her thoughts andfeelings about speaking twolanguages. In the third sectionshe compares her tongue to a plant.Why is this an effective image?
16Why Compare the Tongue to a Plant? A plant is a living organism which needs nurturing like the poet’s original language. Plants die in the wrong environment – Sujata Bhatt wrote this poem when she was living in the USA, where she spoke and wrote English the majority of the time, this environment made her fear that she would forget her mother tongue.Like a plant she thinks that her mother tongue will die of neglect but it starts to bud and grow strong and beautiful ('blossoms') again.
17Imagery 'would rot / rot and die' 'it grows back' 'grows strong veins' Effect created'would rot / rot and die''it grows back''grows strong veins'‘it blossoms out of my mouth’
18Imagery Image Effect created 'would rot / rot and die in your mouth' Horrible image conveys her fear and horror at the thought of losing her mother tongue'it grows back'The tongue is like a growing plant'grows strong veins'Sounds strong, healthy and robust‘it blossoms out of my mouth’Image of beauty - the plant bursts into flower
19LanguageExplore Bhatt’s use of repetition in the first fifteen lines of the poem. Why do you think she uses so repetition?In the final section of the poem, she uses a single metaphor to show how the mother tongue is not lost. The single metaphor is developed over eight lines. Write down what the metaphor is and explain its separate stages.
20Language3. Lines 1-15 describe someone’s conscious feelings whereas lines describe a dream. How does the writer use language differently to capture the differences between everyday speech and the world of dreams?
21Poetic Techniques Technique Evidence Effect metaphor Rot and die in your mouthHorrible image conveys her fear and horror at the thought of losing her mother tonguePersonificationpronounsrepetition
22Feelings and Attitudes The poet tries to make the reader understand what it is like to fear losing your mother tongue. The fear of the loss of her first language represents a anxiety about losing her Indian identity. She is concerned that she is caught between two cultures. However the poem ends happily when she realises that her mother tongue won’t die away but will always be a part of her.