23 April 2011

The King and I 國王與我

I always find business trips a great way to catch up on the movies I have missed. On my way to a meeting in Jakarta a few weeks ago, I was thrilled to find on the in-flight entertainment menu The King’s Speech, the low budget British history drama that came out of nowhere but went on to clinch four top awards at the Oscars. The film tells the story of King George VI, a lifelong stutterer who struggled to overcome his crippling speech impediment with the help of an unorthodox Australian speech therapist. David Seidler, who wrote the screenplay for the film, was himself a stutterer as a child and used to listen to George VI’s wartime speeches on the radio as a source of inspiration. With the help of seasoned actors Colin Firth and Jeffrey Rush, Seidler turned an otherwise little known king into a courageous hero who was able to galvanize his nation in turbulent times and, in doing so, gave eloquent voice to the stuttering community around the world.

The movie poster


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When I was a child I hated meeting new people. The first thing I had to say to a stranger was my name. And I hated saying my name, for the “j” sound was the most difficult of them all. No matter how many times I rehearsed it in my head, I always ended up sounding like a sputtering engine...


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Read the rest of this article in No City for Slow Men, published by Blacksmith Books, available at major bookstores in in Hong Kong and at Blacksmith Books.


23 comments:

  1. Thank you, dear Jason for your good new article. I love it, very nice, excellent.

    I have seen The King's Speech the story of King George VI, good movie.

    Well, stutter, it’s no big deal. We love you the way you are Jason. He he he.

    Lydia

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  2. Dear Jason,

    Oh my god! I thought Monroe breathed almost every sentence was kind of sexy! I did not know she was suffering from stuttering.

    We all have mothers that would embed us with folk beliefs. One I can think of after reading your article is that people whose central upper lip has a thick tubercle would win all arguments (上唇有粒珠,嗌交唔會輸). Hahaha...

    Back in my university days, one of my lecturer used what his teacher did to him to correct our public speaking skills. In those days, adding the word "umm" was as common as today's youngsters using "like" in every sentence. So when we said an "umm" while giving our speech at class, he would drop a glass bead into a jar. The echo of the bead bounced off from the drop reminded us not to say “umm” again throughout our speeches. Of course, the visual reminder of seeing the jar filled up at the end of a 5-minute speech thoroughly rectify our “conversation encumbrance”

    It was a crazy practice, but the whole class actually liked it. But by the end of the semester, all we heard during our speech was our own voices and the jar was no longer filled with beads. It was kind of cruel, you probably think, but may be you can try this practice in your English classes and see for yourself.

    Sometimes, we do need to go through some adversity to become much better.

    Happy Easter!

    Phil

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  3. Dear Jason,

    Although I have no had the chance to watch the movie yet, I was quite touched by your personal stories of your past. I can somewhat relate to the personal embarrassment and the stigma that is associated with stuttering, as that is how I instantly feel when I happen to find myself stutter once in a blue moon. So I can imagine how hard it would have been to grow up with constant disfluency.

    Well it's great to hear that this problem is past you, and you have become a full time lawyer.

    Thanks for sharing the wonderful story! Happy Easter!

    AB

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  4. Jason,

    Quite a touching article. It is a regret that in current Chinese society, stutterers are still least accepted and made fun of behind their back with disrespectful names. I am happy that you have done a great job to overcome this childhood behavioural disorder at Law School. On the positive note, there is no restraint on people with stammers to rise above others without the disorder and still be successful in life. When there is a will, there is a way.

    Keep writing, Jason. Look forward to read your next article.

    Martie

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  5. This is a very lovely article. It’s interesting to read something related to your personal experience. Your article reminds me of my own experience. Whenever I lacked confidence, I stammered. When I first taught in a school during my teaching practicum, 40 students looked at me with a supporting teacher beside me. I found it really hard to utter a word, especially in my second language. How I wanted the supporting teacher to leave and disappear at once! Before the first day of my practicum, I even wrote a script and practiced it. Of course, that’s useless. When I finally spat out something, no students gave me any responses and I even felt more frustrated. Obviously the supporting teacher was not supporting at all and she just made me look silly. However, over the years of teaching, this is no longer a problem to me, though I still sometimes stutter especially when I haven’t prepared well. Haha : )

    Just curious…why did you choose the name “Jason” when you found it hard to pronounce the ‘j’ sound? Or was it because someone chose it for you?

    Lily

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  6. Thanks, Lydia. Such sweet words!

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  7. Phil, sounds like you had a very good teacher at university. As for the Chinese saying you quoted, I never heard of it until now. But I doubt that it's actually true!

    Jason

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  8. Thanks, AB and Martie. I am glad my story touched you!

    Cheers,

    Jason

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  9. Hi Lily,

    Thank you for sharing your personal story. I probably wouldn't characterize what you experienced as a "stutter" in the medical sense. You were likely just a bit tongue-tied because the other teacher put pressure on you. But just the same, it sounds like you overcame a difficult situation with flying colors!

    If you like my piece, feel free to share it with your students. It would make me VERY happy if my article can help even just one disfluent student feel that he/she is not alone.

    Jason

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  10. Just finished reading the latest article and felt in love with it. Very inspiring to life and give me energy in going back to work on tues, thanks Jason :-)

    Irene

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  11. Very refreshing and encouraging.

    EC

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  12. Just traversed your new piece and it was such a beautiful Easter gift. Another humorous, nicely jusxtaposed, and highly sensitive piece.

    Somehow, nothing could make me believe that you are a stutterer or that you would in any way be shy in speaking in public, from the articles you wrote (Your perceptiveness and veracity in what and how you wrote could give nothing away), from speaking to and listening to you at the book launch. Not even Obama or Oprah or David Letterman could make the slightest derogatory comment on your speech. It (was, on the day I saw you) and is immaculate. And your lips AREN'T fat, think it's a bit (no disrespect) unfair of your mom to say something like that.

    Don't tell me that's the only, real, reason you chose to do law at the University. Guess I was one who was the rebel in not reading MB.BS. at the university when my mom and all my maternal relatives wanted me to be a doctor, I don't want to live my life fulfilling others' expectations on me (unless it is also what I see right to do myself), not to mention that I freak out at the sight of blood (and at the sight of dissected sheep's lungs... if you are doing Biology or something like that in Sydney you would need to do something similar).

    [To be Continued]

    Christine

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  13. Your line really touched me, "how often do we build walls around ourselves, crossing things off our lists and accepting limitations that either can be overcome or never existed in the first place?" I almost felt my eyes welling up again. It reminds me so much of the days when I was incapacitated after my accident (it will be exactly 14 years in 2 days' time. You know the fully story), had I allowed myself to take it easy instead of fighting back with all the spirit and life I could give then, I might not be able to work and walk still up to this day. And of people I've known who've given up hope to fight for the better in one way or the other, to fight for what they wanted and could have achieved and what's their due, especially, in graver cases, of patients, and of the doctors tending to them. It's so very very true, and so very very sad. The more "disabled" one is, the more one should fight to overcome it. It's a matter of will, is it not ? After all, as the saying goes, to conquer oneself is the hardest of all. "Acceptance is the way to survive in an unfair world". My answer to that is we have to accept to a certain extent as this is not a perfect world, probably in Utopia we still have to give and take (to be civilized as well maybe), but isn't there an abysmal gap between acceptance (and being accommodating at times) and pure unquestioning giving in and giving up?


    [To be Continued]

    Christine

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  14. Come to think of it, your legal practice requires both thinking and your speech (mine does anyway), and I have to say you have conquered both with amazing capability. I can't imagine you being uneasy with any foreign languages, you are one of the people I know who are multi-lingual ! How can you be a stutterer if you can speak French (I was singing French songs and it was a nightmare, obviously I don't have a gift for languages and pronounciation and projection of my voice) ?! Public speaking, true, I used to dread the times when I had to speak in courts before (though you can say that is not very very public in the sense that there are not trillions of strange faces grimacing at you, just a stern face judge admittedly), and I have sung in public, which, scary as it was, was not that intimidating once one plunges into the melody. For some reason don't you find singing in public easier to cope than to make a speech in public (unless it is just leading a small group discussion when it is more manageable)?

    I am so happy for you that you have chosen law, for whatever the true reason may be or might have been, whether you were conscious of it or not or whether it was manoveuring your subconsious then, and while I won't say you are the bravest man I know, I have to say with utmost honesty and sincerity (and empathy) that I am so very very proud of you.

    Christine

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  15. Wow, Christine, I knew I could always count on you for great comments!

    I am glad the line about building walls touched you. Like I said in the article, that really was the biggest lesson I learned from growing up stuttering -- that many of us are too quick to make assumptions about what we are able and unable to do. No doubt what you had to go through after your car accident was nothing short of traumatic and yet you managed to come out of it stronger and prouder than ever. So kudos to you!

    Cheers,

    Jason

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  16. It is always a pleasure to read your articles. They never fail to deliver on insight and intelligence.

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  17. Hi Jason, I just read your article on stuttering and found it very moving and inspiring. I struggled with stuttering in my childhood and adolescence, but was able to find ways to cope with the help of a wonderful Speech Therapist (after several failed attempts with other STs), and lots of hard work. I eventually became a Speech Therapist myself. I loved watching the King's Speech. :) Thanks for writing that article!

    K.

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  18. That's an amazing story, Kathryn. It's really wonderful that you are giving back to the stuttering community!

    Cheers,

    Jason

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  19. Below is my answer to Lily's question, "...why did you choose the name 'Jason' when you found it hard to pronounce the ‘j’ sound? Or was it because someone chose it for you?"

    I understand that most people in Hong Kong give *themselves* Christian names. That wasn't the case for me. I was named by my uncle at birth. Of course when my uncle chose the name he had no idea I would have trouble with that perfect consonant. And I genuinely like my name. When I was a kid I always thought the name "Jason" sounded intelligent and sweet. The price to pay was all the phonetic challenges it posed to a stuttering child.

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  20. Hi Jason!

    To hear you smooth-talking now, I would never, ever have guessed you were once a stutterer! Good for you, getting over the problem *and* doing the jobs you once thought were out of your reach! : )

    I was just as surprised to learn that Marilyn Monroe once stuttered, considering that she went on to make her name in acting and singing, where diction is important! I guess there's nothing that can't be overcome if you put your mind to it...

    Anyway, keep up the great articles!

    Cheers,
    Andromeda

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  21. Thanks, Andromeda. What a sweet comment!

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  22. My grandparents chose the name Lily for me. I have no idea why they chose it...maybe because it symbolises purity and innocence. Unlike you, I really didn't like it when I was a child. I thought it sounded stupid and I didn't have my own choice for my English name. When my classmates changed their English names often, I felt even unhappy. However, I don't know why... I've started to like my name in recent years...Anyway, you've overcome your difficulty and thanks for sharing.^^

    Lily

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  23. In my memory, Daniel was not such an impressive public speaker, but he was very good in debate.

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