Thursday, February 11, 2016

Linguist's dilemma


I take the subway almost everyday, and I’ve been surprised that despite my diminished hearing I can always understand the announcements. At worst, there is a heavy Boston accent, but it never detracts from the message. Until yesterday. 

Official Historical Map: MBTA Map in Chinese, c. 1985
On my way to pick up my granddaughter, I could hear the voice of the announcer well enough, but I simply could not understand a word of it. It was as though it were a foreign language. I was aware of this and tried really hard to listen carefully. At the same time as I was missing the station announcements, I noticed that the couple next to me was having a loud and animated conversation in a language I didn’t recognize. At first it had sounded like French, but none of the words made sense. At one point I heard the girl repeatedly make a clicking sound. I thought it might be a South African language, but the clicks were not part of the words, just a stream of clicking, like you might use to call a horse. 

Finally, I got up and moved to the map to see if the station names went with what I was hearing. They only barely matched. Walking from the station, I could hear the people around me just fine. It wasn’t my hearing. When I got to the babysitter’s to pick up Clara, we had a perfectly normal conversation.

My daughter suggested it might be a mini stroke. Yikes!


15 comments:

  1. If that was the cause, you should look up a doctor, Shawn - but you are clever and know that yourself. I wish that it had another reason - but do take a bit of rest anyway, relax. (Easily said, I know).

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  2. It reminds me of a dream that i have from time to time that i am in goreign country, i can here every thing but i dont understand.

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    1. Exactly the same, Yael. I imagine you are confused and maybe upset in that dream.

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  3. I suppose daughter looked up momentarily from her smart phone, or maybe she didn't even look up.

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    1. Or maybe daughter wasn't looking at her phone at all but was merely concerned and was trying to convince her stubborn Ma to take her health seriously!

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  4. Haha. She's in the medical field with a Ph.D. so I do listen to her sometimes. If it had been my son, you'd be right on!

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    1. I will say, though, it is not a good idea to Google agnosia. So much can go wrong.

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  5. Uh oh. I hope she's wrong.
    As I read, I thought you were going to finish with, "and then I woke up."

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  6. Don't wait, get checked out... from a woman who had a stroke last year.

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  7. I hope you are back to your old self, Cranky. I'm glad your language faculty was not impaired.

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  8. Sounds like a senior moment as my 96 year mum calls oddments like this. I think we all have short circuits in the old grey matter now and again as we get older. Maybe there's medical name for them but when you consider that there are as many synapses in the brain as there are galaxies in the universe, or is it stars, this is hardly surprising. I often get noises in my head, a kind of tinnitus. One time on a transatlantic flight on an almost empty plane, Qantas, I could hear the same song in my head repeating itself over and over again. I think it was something to do with the engines.

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  9. That sounds a bit scary - maybe the subway air-pressure did something to your ears? If you heard ok when you got out, then this could be the answer?

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  10. Maybe. Let's see what happens when I get on the plane to Florida this afternoon.

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  11. Had you been phoning prior to the strange incident? I was reading an advert for the Klaus Scheidsteger film Thank You for Calling which I'm planning to see next week. It's an expose´ on the hushed up dangers of brain tumours etc. from use of mobile telephones. I only use my phone for sms texts etc. and certainly never press the instrument against my head, the thinest part of the skull being by the ear.

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