Gareth from the Office: Words... and how some of us struggle with them

King George VI
King George VI

ON Sunday night the world was enthralled by the story of King George VI’s battle with a stutter.

British actor Colin Firth’s portrayal of the character to be exact, but it got me thinking, how many people, perhaps not so highly publicised, suffer with a speech impediment.

Latest statistics show that as little as one per cent of people in the UK suffer with a stutter. But that is not the only form of impediment that can affect people.

For years I have been conscious of the way I prounounce words with an s. Believe me, telling someone to come and ‘sit’ next to me can take more concentration than you would think.

I was plagued by it through my university life, especially when it came to working on the radio modules, and even now people will occasionally point out that I have inadvertently put a ‘sh’ in a word, but so what?

OK, a career in the radio business was at one point very intriguing to me and perhaps with more perseverance I could have done it, but if you don’t hear the problem yourself, how can you possibly work on improving it?

My friends in school might have asked me to say ‘six, sizzling sausages’ over and over again but I wasn’t fussed, it wasn’t meant in a bad way.

But school can be where children develop speech problems. While researching speech impediments years ago for an A-level English assignment I discovered that children can become apprehensive in school, or at home, when speaking.

This can happen with interruptions as they go to speak or answer questions which can, in turn, lead to them being hesitant and therefore speaking with a stutter.

In the King’s Speech the lead role speaks of his problems with an overbearing father for starting his stuttering, but of course that is not always the case.

An impediment could be born of anxiety, with people fearful of speaking in public, or a multitude of other problems.

One thing is for sure, people who suffer with a speech impediment are not stupid, so don’t talk to them like they are.

Believe me, they don’t want you constantly picking up on every word they wrongly pronounce or every sentence they stumble over. If you wouldn’t like it happening to you then don’t do it yourself.

But people should not be embarrassed about a speech impediment and on the flip side people shouldn’t mock others for suffering with one.

Johnathan Ross has had a glittering career despite mispronouncing of the letter ‘r’ but still you don’t see Wossy bothered by it, and rightly so.

He shertainly doesn’t give a sit.