Oder auf Deutsch als Welt Stottertag genannt! Today (22nd October 2017) is World Stuttering Awareness Day.
I know the feeling when you want to say something, but it just won’t come out of your mouth. This happened to me around when I was around 14- it was like the words were stuck in my throat, and I wanted to say the sentence and get it over with, while the words were boiling somewhere in my throat or my stomach. It was like I had to breathe deeply in to get the sentence out. Sometimes it didn’t stop me from wanting to say what I had to say, no matter how long it took or how weird it sounded… other times… well, it stopped me.
This doesn’t happen as much now… in English at least (which is great, cos I gotta be able to speak my native language like a native speaker.) It does happen sometimes, though, even now. Very rarely. I breathe in before I speak. Sometimes I slow down to say the sentence. I try to say it as loudly and clearly as I can.
(Also wen I was seven, I had trouble saying the ‘S’ sound – maybe that had something to do with it.)
Yet when I’m speaking German, in lectures or sometimes showing off that I know how to say this really awesome German word… sometimes it comes back. And the words get stuck. And even though I breathe in and take my time before I speak, sometimes it doesn’t come out. And I’m not as good at speaking in a foreign language anyway, so when this happens… I switch to English or just feel I should give up.
But giving up is not an option! Searching the interwebs around World Stuttering Day, I found that 1% of people in the world (a total of 75,000,000 people) have problems with stuttering – including around 700,000 people in the UK and around 800,000 people in Germany who stammer.
ZDF interviewed Joshua, a teenager who stammers, in the Konfrontationstherapie where he gets help with his stuttering. Listen to their interview here.
Underneath is a sort of translation, but if you want to try watching the interview first, do that. I’ll wait here. 🙂
Joshua seems to stutter worse than I did, and er stottert seit er sprechen kann (he stutterted since he learnt to speak). Alltagssituationen (everday situations) are harder for him, seeming to be big hurdles which are easy for other people.
He says: ‘Es ist am schlimmsten vor Fremden, oder in Situationen, an wo ich trotz warten muss, zu am Reden.’
‘It’s at its worst in front of strangers, or in situations where I have to wait to speak.’
Both of those situations are very stressful, particularly when you don’t feel confident.
Das Wort ihm Hals stecken bleibt – the words stay stuck in his throat. He’s tried several therapies. He tried to hide it by not speaking at all, avoiding other people hearing him. However his new therapist (Logopader), Claus Welsch, emphasises that it’s OK to stutter, as long as people get to say what they want to say.
‘Die Leute werde animiert, selbstbewsusst zu werden. Das zu sagen, was sie denken, auch mit Stottern. Und dann verliert Stottern irgendwo die negative Kraft, die Angst.’
People are encouraged to become self-confident. To say what they think, even with stuttering. And then, somewhere, the stutter loses its negative power, – fear.’
Around 800,000 people in Germany stutter, but there aren’t exact numbers. Claude Welsch says that stuttering itself isn’t a physiological issue- but that it can influence the psyche, – so that you become scared or unsettled in speaking. People can develop other issues because of the stuttering.
Joshua’s greatest fear is ‘not to be taken seriously’ – ‘dass er nicht nicht voll vernommen wird’. His wish is that people were more patient with those who stutter, and gave him more time to speak.
In the interview, Claude mentions three different types of therapy., some which he, as a stutter himself, found unhelpful.
Es gibt weltweit sprechtechnische Ansätze. Das bedeutet, dass man den Stotterern beibringt, die Rede so zu verändern, dass es erst gar nicht erst zum Stottern kommt.’
There are worldwide speech-technical attempts. That means, that one teaches the stuttering person to change their speech, so they they don’t get to stuttering.
For example, the singing technique, where you start singing the sentence so that it should come out fliessend (fluently). It’s hard to spit out a sentence but even I find that its less hard when you sing it.
However, Claude Welsch doesn’t think this technique works all the time.
Yet he says different techniques work for different people. ‘Die moge dem einem oder dem anderem helfen’. So the singing technique could work for you.
However he says that if stuttering still continues (like it did for me) then he says to practice speaking despite the stutter – so that the very act of speaking is less scary. I’d this goes especially when speaking in another language.
‘Stotternde haben ganz viele Phasen der Redeflüssigkeit. Wenn sie sich trauen zu sprechen, wenn sie selbstbewusst werden, trotz des Stotterns, dann entpuppt sich ganz häufig eine flüssige Rede, die authentisch ist. Denn jeder Mensch hat seine eigene Arbeitsgeschwindigkeit.’
Stutters have many phases of speech fluency. When they trust themselves to speak, when they become self-confident, despite the stutter, then it frequently turns out to be a fluent speech, which is authentic. Because every person has thier own working speed.
Trust yourself to speak – even if you think it doesn’t sound fluent.
Another video I watched, (although it has quite bad visual quality), includes different exercises that a young boy, Christoph, and other stutters used to become better speakers. See the video on YouTube here.
The first time Christoph speaks, he stutters.
‘Ich heiise Christoph… ich wohne in Munchen, und ich bin zehn Jarhe alt. Ich gehe in die vierte Klass, und als ich letze Mal hier war, ging es eingentlich sehr gut.’
He says that ‘die Logopadie hat gar nichts gebracht’.
So how did this latest speech therapy try to help him?
First they practice just breathing, not speaking. ‘Solange wir nicht reden mussen… aber wir die ganze Ziet nur an die Atmen konzientrieren. Das Atmen durch den Nase ein und durch den Mund wieder aus.’
Then they practice breathing in, then speaking numbers on breathing out. Gradually you can get louder and louder, and more confident.
They practice speaking, but without meaning anything – the ‘Ja-Nein Ubung’. Again, like the numbers, this speech doesn’t mean anything. ‘Es bringt uns in Kontant mit unsere innere Starke.’ ‘wenn wir sinnlose sprechen… da hat die Sprechen keine Bedeutung.’
They then practice speaking in reality- for example, Christoph went to the shops. ‘Wir lernern angstfrei flussige Sprechen in die Realitat umzusetzen.’
At the end, Christoph appears more confident – and his stutter seems completely gone! ‘Das Spreche geht um einiges veil leichter und fliessiger als hervor. hat es mir vor allem am meisten gebracht.’
Here’s a final blog post from another language learner who also used to stutter. It can be done! I found thier 4 tips really helpful:
Slow down your speech.
Take short breaks between sentences.
Don’t try to hide your stutter.
Maintain eye contact while speaking (this I don’t see the point of sometimes, but if it help in concentration when speaking and reducing the fear of speaking, I’ll try.)
Happy World Stuttering Awareness day!
Don’t be silenced. International Stammering Awareness Day.