‘Me talk funny’ - A stroke patient’s personal account
Schwyter (Jörg)
Source: English Today No. 108, December 2011
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Introduction

  1. If you met me and listened to me speaking English, you might ask yourself why I talk so funny; why I can’t find the right words; and why I make so many grammatical errors. I am, after all, the Professor of English Linguistics at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, and I have degrees in English language and linguistics from Cambridge University and the University of Pennsylvania.
  2. The answer, sadly, lies in my brain. A little more than two years ago, when I was 45 years old, I had a stroke. After about 36 hours of lying helpless on the floor of my flat in Lausanne, I was rescued, thanks to the perseverance of my sister, who intervened from near Zurich – though natively Swiss German-speaking like myself, her fluent telephone French was in the end enough to persuade the Lausanne police to break my door down and find out why I was not answering my phone. Now, as a result, I suffer, among other things, from aphasia1.
  3. What this essay has really been about is how language is created by the brain, how easily it is therefore affected by a stroke, and how difficult it is to repair the damage. In order to carry out a repair, you need a good speech therapist, a lot of training, considerable willpower and, above all, a supportive environment. Please remember that we people who have had strokes have got something to say, but that we just can’t express our thoughts and ideas, and that this is immensely frustrating.

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