More Than Lip Service

LipsPinkThis last week I have had a few more noticeable set-backs. As the clouds and wind build while we enter the Autumn season, there is more cold, dry air and pressure changes and less sunlight. All of this is the “perfect storm” of symptom exasperation when it comes to chronic pain and fatigue.

What I have also been learning is that it seems to also make my foreign accent much harder to correct. Prosody (word order) as well as pronunciation and word finding ability all suffer when I am more tired.

It is also notable that when I do not spend the day talking to myself (to the amusement of the dog and parrot, I’m sure) while my family is away most of the day, I find that my speech is MUCH worse when they get home.

I have recently made a renewed commitment to reading through my Bible over the entire year and am in Isaiah and 1 Timothy. I also use that time to read aloud and let the foreign accent show it’s full force as I read scripture. The FAS naturally adds a different feeling while reading as the emotions are different as the accent adds a unique flavor which is way different than my usual speech used to be. My speech therapist says that the reading aloud is good for helping create new neuro-pathways as well.  It’s a win/win!

The adage, “practice makes perfect,” may not really apply here, however, practicing out loud is how I actually hear the processing of the words and am then able to note it, work on it with some tricks to more closely correctly pronounce it, repeat and then move on.

Here is an example:  The word: people.  When I pronounce this word, it comes out naturally sounding like Pee–poo0.  I remember Terri Stacey actually giggled at that one.  The ‘l” sound just won’t hop into the right place at all. So I developed a trick. When I say the word “people,” I think about being behind an apartment door when someone rings the bell. I look through the PEEP-hole to see the people! By visualizing this trick, I can say PEEPhole and it more closely resembles “people”.  It seems like a lot of work, but it does work for me.

Then there is my “POOL” / “PULL”/  “POLE” –trick.  When I tried to say “pull,” it natually would come out Poo-wel.  So in order to say the sentence “Please pull the door open,”  I now FIRST say in my head pool/pole/pull… the two extremes of the vowel plus “L” sounds help me then settle into the middle sound which is the correct one I want.

Today I worked on the word “SCHOOL” which had a very similar pronunciation, but was much harder for me to develop a trick for. I finally settled on this: when I know I’m about to say “School,” I substitute “SK-wool”, while barely even touching the “w”.  I envision a sheep which has a price scanning SKU on it. SK-wool.  “Where are you going to school?” Weird huh?

Though there is a LOT of processing happening as I try to “fix” the pronunciation of words, the stress given them within the syllables of the word and within the words of a sentence, I am in affect, developing “tricks” to use on the tricky words (those that give me the most trouble). I joked with a friend at church, I sometimes feel like I’m a walking Tower of Babel.

However, that tower was built as a testament to what God could do and it was God who created the different tongues so that the people were forced to scatter. I find with this Foreign Accent Syndrome affliction of mine, people actually flock to me. People continue to ask the question “where are you from?” and make the statements “I love your accent. I could listen to you talk all day.”  The gatherings that come to me allow me to testify. This is what Foreign Accent Syndrome looks like in me. Then I sing a tiny bit, so that they hear my “real” voice. The jaws drop. Then, while their mind is open to the wonders that they just witnessed, the door is wide open for me to share with them how we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.”

More than ever before, I see how I MUST work to correct my pronunciation of the word “people,” because it is people I want to reach. I am learning, it is not so much the pronunciation that is a hinderance, it’s that I might not say anything at all to another person about the good news of the Gospel and the glorious hope that there is right now. It is not so important HOW I say it or about my fear of what the other person might think of me. What’s most important is that there is something of great value to communicate, so don’t wait. Who doesn’t want to receive an encouraging word and a smile? Or a nod and a statement like “oh, I’m sorry for your trouble,” or “I care about you. How can I help?”

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