18 December, 2009

Upon Intelligibility

I struggle sometimes to be comprehensible. Not in text when the letters and words are nicely kerned and standardized for you to see here and let scramble into your brain, but in person, in speech, over the phone and in front of people.

It's as if I speak like:


when I know I should be speaking more intelligibly, like:

but at the same time I know I should slow down enough that I can be understood:

so that the full meaning of my words doesn't get garbled together at the back of my throat before they ever have a chance to fly to your ears.

There are always so many thoughts fighting to tumble out all at once in a spastic flood, my mind whirring several paragraphs and tangents ahead at the same time even as the words around me filter in and touch off their own cascades. I have to stop and force myself to slow down, and the entire time I'm speaking slowly I can feel my mind tugging at the reins, revving to go faster, grumbling like dropping a manual transmission into 2nd gear at 80kph. It is frustrating to not be able to just blow my mind out of my ears onto projection boards like Kleenex and show those with whom I need to communicate everything at once.

Part of this is exacerbated by having had grown up learning a lot of my English from books instead of speech and from my father, whose English is good, but still heavily accented (according to other people, I cannot hear any accent at all). Even now I'm still re-learning words that I had learned to speak improperly and had been using for years. I learned the word "jalopy" to be spoken as "yah-loupe-ooh" from my father, and until I got into an argument with a salesperson about paint I thought that the "e" in "matte" was meant to be spoken.

At the same time, there are people with whom I can blaze away at a conversation, sentences whirring past like bullets. In the last lab that I worked, one of the other staff once remarked to me that she stopped even trying to listen or comprehend when my boss and I would start slinging ultra-fast science at one another and my boss in this lab is the same way (we practice speaking slowly at one another in our meetings). Many friends can also communicate this fast, which makes it all the more frustrating when I bang up against someone in the current of my thoughts that can't listen as quickly as I can deliver.

Nonetheless, these aren't acceptable excuses. If I believe I have something worthwhile to say, then the burden to speak it intelligibly is upon me and not upon my listener.

No comments: