know me, I'm the person in your car who, when a song comes on the
radio, sings loudly and excitedly, but sludges though 80% of the
words. It's annoying, I know. But I am not a native speaker and
I've been learning this language by melody -- the broad strokes
come first, the nuances take time.
don't notice my shortcomings when we have casual conversations.
I easily manage interactions over a counter, or at the grocery store.
If you bring up theatre or politics or relationships, I will be
able to follow you, and might even be able to add to the conversation.
But if you bring up a subject that I know nothing about, my stutter
will become more noticeable. My grasping for language will become
increasingly louder and more gauche. I get confused, but instead
of going mute, I belly-flop in words. And if you are wielding hardly-used
terms or multi-syllabic expressions, I will parrot them back at
you, awkwardly and persistently, until I roll the new words around
my tongue like a just-prepared piece of sushi.
you mind if I ask you something? Why do you say, "a needle
in the haystack?" Who would put something so tiny and insignificant
inside of a high pile of dried grass? And then who would look for
something so minute, so easily replaced, if they had? I recently
bought a book about the origins of English idioms because the more
I know the stories of the sayings, the more I can make the phrasing
stick. It's not that American English is the exception to the world's
rules -- in every language I have learned, there are a number of
colloquialisms that don't make perfect, literal sense. I find mon
petit chou an odd term of endearment, because my experiences with
cabbage have left me much less endeared than gassy.
writing a book in English, even while I am teaching the language
to myself, idioms and all. Every page is a lesson, transcribing
a melody that becomes more and more hum-mable. It's an ambitious
project, but I learn by doing, so why not? I will readily admit
that when I write, I often interchange words that sound similar
but have drastically different meanings. I write "call"
instead of "car," "sore" instead of "soul."
I find the mistakes when I edit, and the first-draft faux-paux are
often funny and sometimes enlightening in context -- like writing
"Why note?" on the top of an essay I had intended to call
from speech therapy four months ago, but my therapist still meets
me for coffee periodically to check in. Recently, at a sidewalk
café, she sat across from me and wanted to know about my
progress. I told her about the book I'm writing, and asked her if
she had thought that I would come this far, this quickly. It was
an honest inquiry, but I am pretty sure that you would call this
"fishing." My speech therapist doesn't mind. "No,"
she said, as she stirred a second raw sugar packet into her cappuccino,
her broad smile assuringly toothy. "You were motivated Lauren
and that counts, but a lot of people who have had your type of brain
damage never recover." I childishly beamed with her praise
and enjoyed when she added that I had made a "really remarkable
recovery." I loved her alliteration.
was August of last year, two months after my 27th birthday, when
I went on tour with a show from New York to the International Fringe
Festival in Scotland. On a night off, some close friends and I went
into a dingy dive bar in Edinburgh, and decided to try to win the
prize money for the best karaoke performance of the night. When
we were called to the stage, my friend and I began to sing the song
that she had selected as our "sure-fire" submission to
the competition, a duet of Total Eclipse of the Heart.
remember stopping the song, I don't remember the fall.
PAGE 1 2
version for easy reading
material is copyrighted and cannot be reproduced without permission|