Why can’t my grandmother speak fluently?

Photo by Cristian Newman on Unsplash

As long as I can remember, my grandma couldn’t speak in a normal way. Her uttered words sound like an infant who is just learning to speak. This had made her words hard to understand for others.

My mum told me that she had this condition from childhood. So I assumed she had voice box impairment from birth. But recently, my uncle made me realize that her vocal cords are as healthy as that of a normal person. The main reason for her inability was something else.

To understand that let me explain how did you (when you were a normal infant) learn to talk properly? During early years, you heard other people’s voices which made your brain realize what sound “sounds” like. You tried using your voice box and twisted your tongue in the proper manner to copy those sounds. You practiced to produce sounds, and later started uttering words. But your words were too improper and were hard for normal people to understand. Then with more practice by hearing other people, you became fluent at it.

Unfortunately for my grandma, her initial means of practice was taken away at an early age, her hearing. For a few years after birth, she could hear sounds from other people and she tried learning to produce sound. But just after that stage, an accident took away her hearing ability and made her deaf. Then, instead of hearing the voices, she had to understand lip movement of other people to practice.

A normal child trains its tongue and lips to produce proper sound. For my grandma’s mind, it couldn’t recognize that proper sound anymore, so it thought, by producing an infant-like sound and maintaining proper lip movement is enough for communication. So her mind became highly trained to understand lip movement and taught her speech accordingly.

After 70 years, she is now a master lip reader. She can understand a person’s speech via his lip movement and body language. She moves her lips accordingly to produce her desired speech but little does she know she sounds like an infant. If she had been deaf by birth she wouldn’t have known what sound means so she would have used sign language.

But my Grandma’s inability never flinched her confidence and determination to live normally. She had endured a lot in her childhood just to get acceptance from others. And I pay her great respect for that. It has also inspired me to be more confident in the face of any adversity. Nature has gifted mea brain that can reshape to fit any environment and I have determined to make full use of that.




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