On Not Taking the Miraculous Gift of Language for Granted

imagesBy Amanda Szramiak – Hi everyone. This semester, I am taking ENGL 4110: Exploring the English Language. I was so excited to take this course because communication absolutely fascinates me.

Before I switched to education, I was pretty far into my communication studies major, so technically, I have finished a minor in communication studies. I also thought about switching to speech-language pathology because language absolutely intrigues me. I feel like the world of education encapsulates my interest of both communication and language.

This past summer, my family went through a pretty rough time. My uncle, who I am extremely close with, developed Guillian-Barre Syndrome. This life-altering disease causes the immune system to attack the nervous system, leaving you paralyzed. Luckily, the disease is reversible over time. On Father’s Day, my uncle had tingling sensations in his hands and feet. After two emergency room visits and multiple misdiagnoses, my uncle was admitted to the ICU three days later.

At this point, my uncle was paralyzed. A speech-language pathologist came the day after he was admitted, and she gave him a swallowing test. Unfortunately, he aspirated and was immediately put on a ventilator. The worst part about this disease is that my uncle was still highly functioning, but he could not move or talk.

While my uncle was intubated, my family and I used a new way to communicate with him. My uncle was capable of nodding ever so slightly so we relied on his head gestures. We would recite the alphabet, and he would nod when we got to the letter he needed to use. Although it was incredibly time consuming and frustrating, he was able to communicate with us.

Thankfully, my uncle is recovering at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. He can talk, and he is slowly gaining movement back. I want to share his story because we take communication for granted to the furthest extent. We forget how absolutely amazing and miraculous language is on a daily basis. Imagine not being able to communicate for an entire day. I would even say not being able to communicate for an hour would be almost unbearable. I ask you to recognize and appreciate this miracle.

So although I am currently cursing the International Phonetic Alphabet, I leave you with a quote Professor Hartman Keiser placed in my syllabus.

“Simply by making noises with our mouths, we can reliably cause precise new combinations of ideas to arise in each other’s minds. The ability comes so naturally that we are apt to forget what a miracle it is.”

-Stephen Pinker

The Language Instinct, p.1

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