Monday, November 20, 1995

Stuttering in a foreign language

In this post I was asked several interesting questions by Larry Molt. I will paraphrase his questions and post my answers

Yes, even though initially I was not recognized as a stutter I did experience stuttering exactly the same way I experienced it in Italian.


Yes, I experienced the same stuttering patterns (block etc.)


No, stuttering did not happen to the same extent as in Italian and it also went unrecognized because it was misinterpreted as a difficulty in speaking a foreign language. As you conjectured, I was also speaking slower, with shorter phrases, more pauses etc. probably reducing demand on my speech and therefore reducing stuttering.

Eventually the reason for lessened stuttering vanished with increasing "fluency" (yes, I was struck by the same conundrum!... more stutter the more "fluency" in the new language). Interestingly the first statement is true to this day. In my mind English, at this point, is actually easier than my native language, but I still do have a slight accent, and when I have one of my now rare blocks, people tend to think that "I'm hunting for the word". Given different situations I've had to choose between being thought of as
"just off the boat" or as a stutterer..

I think my experience does match yours (ironically, stuttering more with increased "fluency" in the foreign language). Interestingly it was also confirmed
in an acting class I took. As I was learning a part, I was better able to
avoid stuttering than when I had completely "interiorised it" and had begun
"being" the character I was portraying. The director asked me why I had chosen
to "make" the character stutter! He was baffled when I told him it had not
been an "acting" choice.

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