Tuesday, September 21, 2010

will there be a speech therapy oscar?

The new movie The King's Speech has won the Toronto film festival's most popular film award. Winners of that award often go on to win big at the Oscars.

Interesting for us linguists because the movie "Tells the story of the man who became King George VI, the father of Queen Elizabeth II. After his brother abdicates, George ('Bertie') reluctantly assumes the throne. Plagued by a dreaded stutter and considered unfit to be king, Bertie engages the help of an unorthodox speech therapist named Lionel Logue. Through a set of unexpected techniques, and as a result of an unlikely friendship, Bertie is able to find his voice and boldly lead the country into war" (from IMDB, emphasis added).

I don't know anything about Logue, but Caroline Bowen, a Speech-Language Pathologist, posted some good info here, including this bit about the actual "unexpected techniques":

The therapist diagnosed poor coordination between larynx and diaphragm, and asked him to spend an hour each day practising rigorous exercises. The duke came to his rooms, stood by an open window and loudly intoned each vowel for fifteen seconds. Logue restored his confidence by relaxing the tension which caused muscle spasms. The duke's stammer diminished to occasional hesitations. Resonantly and without stuttering, he opened the Australian parliament in Canberra in 1927.

Using tongue twisters, Logue helped the duke rehearse for major speeches and coached him for the formal language of his coronation in 1937 (emphasis added).

Bowen says that the King managed to speak in a slow, measured pace. You can download a 1 minute sound file of King George VI's broadcast on the day Britain declared war on Nazi Germany here. You'll note that he does indeed speak very slowly.

Bowen, C. (2002). Lionel Logue: Pioneer speech therapist.  Retrieved from www.speech-language-therapy.com/ll.htm on (9/21/2010).

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