On a recent trip to Iceland, on our first evening in the country, I had booked a fun, light-hearted crash course on the Icelandic language in the living room of a friendly Icelander– called Asta (via I heart Reykjavik).
We turned up on her doorstep in a taxi and were welcomed in to her home to learn more about the origins of the language, the construction and pronunciation of the alphabet and its every day uses. Throughout the evening we bombarded Asta with our questions about the vocabulary, Icelandic culture and traditions and by the end of the night came away feeling like we had a fighting chance of being able to at least pronounce the name of the street we were staying on for our return taxi driver! A very different scenario from trying to pronounce where we wanted to go a few hours earlier! We could even be so bold as to say that we could pronounce the famous ......
.....that erupted in 2010!Communication is a funny thing isn't it? Do you ever get frustrated about being misunderstood? a small change in sound can make all the difference from being looked at like your an alien or from a warm smile of recognition and understanding.
Take also for example some of the things that are written... in books, newspapers and even blog posts! .... Something is written (with the intention of meaning one thing).... and each reader can read what has been written and interpret it completely differently. This can be good and bad.... "good" that each person can come away with something unique to what they want or need to hear and "bad" in that sometimes these "mis" interpretations can lead to a few problems!!
Understanding and communicating with a special needs child can be equally as difficult or equally as rewarding. If you have read many of the posts here on Henibean you will know that Heni (our daughter) doesn't communicate in the same way as you or I do ... she is non verbal and only makes one sound.... Ah. (you can learn more about Heni's story Part 1 here, Part 2 here and Part 3here!)
BUT....It is amazing how many different intonations she can make with that one sound! Over the years we have gradually come to understand some of her language and the ways she tries to communicate with us.... but we are far from fluent in "Henispeak" and still learning!
I feel that Heni understands pretty much everything we say to her but can't reciprocate in the same way. Apart from her one "Ah" sound, non verbal communication is a big part of how she connects to us... and to keep us on our toes she is forever changing her signs around to make us guess! I'm sure there are sooooo many times that I have misunderstood what she wants and needs.... but she is ever patient, loving and forgiving.
The point of writing this post today is as a reminder to everyone (including me) that most of the population at large can't just automatically speak a new tongue... it takes work and practice and often years of guessing, messing up until some eventually success may come. Along the away we may go on a crash course in "Icelandic or Henispeak" and take time to learn all the basics ....but then it takes continued time, effort and a potentially a great deal of frustration along the way to reach fluency. For all the new parents of special needs, non verbal children out there... I want to encourage you to not give up and become disheartened... you wouldn't expect it if you were learning Icelandic so keep on persisting and practicing and even the smallest of success..... (like being able to say "EYJAFJALLAJOKULL") can be all the sweeter and rewarding.