Posts Tagged ‘speech’

Before I had children, I didn’t quite “get” Mister Rogers. I thought the slow, gentle way he talked was odd.

But then I saw how John at the age of three reacted to him, and the penny dropped. I hadn’t been able to figure out Mister Rogers because he wasn’t talking to me! He was talking to three-year-olds.

Mister Rogers did know how to talk to grown-ups when needed.

Recently, during the national discussion about possible funding cuts for the arts and Public Broadcasting, someone posted on Facebook a 1969 video of Mister Rogers testifying before US Senator John O. Pastore of Rhode Island. At the time, Sen. Pastore was chairman of US Senate Subcommittee on Communications.

It’s a great, great speech. It’s even recognized as such on the American Rhetoric website. The testimony won PBS $20 million in funding from the originally skeptical Sen. Pastore.

But what strikes me most strongly is that its power comes from the speaker’s clearly communicated belief in the essential goodness of his listener. It is communicated through Mister Rogers’s tone of voice and body language.

Faith in the listener is what came across to three-year-old John, too. “You are special. I like you just the way you are.”

See what you think.

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Here’s a new idea. A couple of young entrepreneurs have found a way to convert sign language into audible speech with their prize-winning electronic gloves.

National Public Radio has the story.

“For years, inventors have been trying to convert some sign language words and letters into text and speech. Now a pair of University of Washington undergraduates have created gloves called SignAloud. Sensors attached to the gloves measure hand position and movement, and data is sent to a computer via Bluetooth and is then converted into spoken word and text.

“Theirs is one of seven inventions recently awarded a Lemelson-MIT Student Prize, with awards ranging from $10,000 to $15,000.

“Inventors Navid Azodi and Thomas Pryor, both college sophomores, say the gloves will help create a communication bridge between deaf and hearing communities. The gloves, they say, will help deaf people better communicate with the rest of the world without changing the way they already interact with each other.

“However, the invention has been met with criticism that the bridge they want to create goes only one way — and it’s not necessarily one the deaf community has been clamoring for. …

“Azodi says he and Pryor are moving beyond their prototype and are working closer with those who use American Sign Language to develop new versions. They’re also working on better understanding ASL, which is more than just hand movements; it also uses facial expressions and body language to convey meaning.” Read more.

I don’t know much about the culture of the deaf community, but I do remember reading about resistance to cochlear implants a few years ago. It’s hard for people who can hear to understand that some people really don’t mind deafness and prefer their own ways of dealing with the world. But kudos to all inventors anyway, especially young ones open to continuous revision!

Photo: Conrado Tapado/Univ of Washington, CoMotion
SignAloud gloves translate sign language into text and speech.

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