If you think about the mechanics of speaking, it’s pretty remarkable:
You have to exhale using your diaphragm, use your throat, mouth, and tongue muscles, position your jaw just right, and you have to know when to use emphasis for each syllable- all while trying to remember WTF you were trying to say in the first place.
And that is just producing language.
What happens when you can’t understand your native tongue? What happens when you don’t understand the meaning of the words being spoken to you?
Within days of my stroke the nurses at CPMC in San Francisco had me walking the halls (assisted). By week two, I was able to walk the halls independently. Even though my mobility was beginning to stabilize, my communication still remained dormant. I had to relearn the semantics of the English language.
Semantics as defined in the Webster’s Dictionary, is the branch of of linguistics and logic concerned with meaning. Very similar to a dog waiting to go on a walk. That dog may know the word, “walk.” However he may not understand the whole sentence, “Would you like to go for a walk?” This may be due to speech segmentation.
Speech segmentation is “the process of perceiving individual words in the continuous flow of the speech signal” (Goldstein, 2022). Meaning, each word holds value- a purpose per se. When our speech segmentation gets disrupted, the words just sounds like garble. For example, if I was placed in France, I wouldn’t have any clue of how to decipher words. I would be standing there, just admiring the beautiful sounds coming out of people’s mouths, until I heard a sound or a word that sounded familiar.
Because my speech segmentation wasn’t connecting, I knew when people were speaking but, I was unable to comprehend what they were saying. Therefore, I would request that the sender of the conversation slow down so I could process what they were telling/asking me. By the second or third repeat of their statement, I understood what was being communicated to me, however, trying to return the communication was very difficult due to a phenomenon called, Broca’s Aphasia.
Reach out to an aphasia group on social media! The group that I’ve connected with is called Aphasia Café. I absolutely love meeting with them on Zoom.
If you aren’t comfortable with speaking in these types of settings, it’s okay- we understand your struggles because we have also dealt with similar circumstances. If anything, you get to be in the presence of amazing warriors like yourself and listen to amazing stories.
Please remember to have patience with yourself during this frustrating time in your life.
You aren’t alone.
Goldstein, E. Bruce. (2022). “Learning a Language.” Cognitive Psychology: Connecting Mind, Research, and Everyday Experience. 3rd ed. Australia: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2011. 299. Web.