Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The King's Speech

The other night I went out with the lady friend and a few other less specific friends to see the film The King's Speech. I would like to get the trivial part of this discussion out of the way first by saying it was a damned fine film that kept a good pace as nothing really happened. No aliens invaded, there were no menacing criminals blackmailing the throne, no super villains had designs on world domination, and there were no robots (which normally would be a strike against it but I will let it slide as I am in a good mood).

What did interest me was how much of an interplay between psychology and linguistics I saw. It is really common knowledge that our speech patterns and choices are ingrained into our brains by the environment that we occupy, but it had never really dawned on me that a "skipped track" if you will could cause one to have a speech impediment. In my studies I came across cases of people who were mute or otherwise incapable of speech due to some sort of trauma, but I had (in hindsight foolishly) never made the connection between the same and stammering. Working with students from China has introduced me to a plethora of confidence issues that I had never really known to exist outside of the cinematic scope and the film really nailed the idea soundly into that worthless lump of meat twixt my ears that the same techniques could be used to help my students when they are on the radios. Despite my tendencies towards... unorthodox methods of teaching, I would have never really considered speech therapy since it sits nicely outside of my scope of education.

Many people who I work with mistake comprehension issues in the students as a lack of vocabulary, but usually what happens when they are brought back to me they blossom and begin to discuss very complex and technical topics. This eventually leads to the revelation that they are, in fact, scared to death of their instructors and the tower.

Confidence is such an integral part of our daily speech patterns and it never fails to amaze me that the company I work for does nothing to encourage an environment where these uprooted people are given someplace to grow into. Instead they are thrown headlong into the daily grind and told from day one "DO EVERYTHING EXACTLY RIGHT OR YOU WILL GO HOME IN SHAME." This is not the right way to do things, but to change hearts and minds you must start at the bottom. As such I will take what I have learned in this film and redouble my efforts with my students and will strive to be that one friend they might need while on this wild adventure.

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