Hello! I thought I'd include a little blog on my website... I've never written one before so please be kind to me. I'm really aware that lots of people don't really know everything that a Speech & Language Therapist (SLT) actually does so I thought I'd start with the foundation - the speech part....
For those of you who don't know me I am Scottish, studied at a Scottish University and work in Scotland so it's natural for me to talk about Scottish English. By Scottish English I mean the way English is spoken in Scotland. There is a huge variation in accent from North to South so these are just general points - not every Scottish person sounds the same!
A little bit of information for you first - there are 26 consonant sounds in Scottish English. Sounds, not letters. As well as the usual ones you could likely name, like 'm' and 's', and those that are written as two letters (e.g. 'sh', 'th' and 'ch') but are said as one sound (as in 'shop', 'think' and 'chair'), Scottish English has a few extra.
There is the throaty 'ch' sound at the end of the word 'Loch' compared to 'lock' and the more breathy 'w' sound at the start of a word like 'which' compared to 'witch'. Try it!
There is also more accepted use of a glottal stop in words like Katie, butter, water (say them without the 't'). I say accepted, but I can remember being told to PRONOUNCE THE "T" when I was young! Traditionally, Scottish speakers also have much more of a pronounced 'r' at the end of a word like 'car', although there is a theory that this is becoming less obvious nowadays.
None of these consonants make as big a difference to the way we sound as much as the different vowel system we have. Scottish vowels are remarkably different, which is why poor old Siri sometimes struggles to understand. Try saying these 3 words -
Bird Word Heard
Do they rhyme? If they don't, chances are you're Scottish. Find an English person and ask them to say them. Are they much closer to being rhyming words now?
What about -
Do you say them exactly the same way? If so, you're probably Scottish. An English speaker would have different "a" vowels in these words.
Hopefully you've not nodded off already, I find this sort of speech stuff fascinating, but am aware it doesn't float everyone's boat! It's one of the reasons why I'm pretty sure that I'm in the right job though.
So, where does a SLT come into this? Well, we are all trained and proficient in understanding and using The International Phonetic Alphabet to transcribe exactly HOW words are said rather than how they are spelt. Being able to do this detailed analysis from a speech sample is crucial in properly identifying where and how speech issues are occurring and provides the base data for working out the most appropriate means of intervention.
Speaking comes so naturally to most of us that we rarely give it a moments thought. However, when you think about the number of different sounds and variations I've just described and then add in the rapid, constantly changing movements and control required of your lips, tongue, teeth, jaw, breath and saliva, I think it's pretty amazing more people DON'T struggle! It is devastating to lose the power of speech, or for families with a child who struggles with speech - our ability to communicate is fundamental to who we are.
More to this speaking malarkey than you ever even considered, isn't there?! If you'd like to know more about accents/vowels/mechanics of speech, this is an excellent place to start. I'm not biased at all because this is where I studied...
I'm on a roll with this blog thing now so check back soon for my next one - its called Lets talk about....talking
Frances Inglis independent Speech & Language Therapist, Forward Speech Therapy
Forward Speech Therapy is a comprehensive private Speech & Language Therapy service for children up to 18 years old. Initial Consultation is free.