Episode 11: The Science Of Sound Wave Manipulation

Emma speaks to Aaron about his passion for communication and how it has led to him wanting to learn linguistics. Aaron will also be revealing some very practical tips and tricks for anyone to become a better communicator, because who doesn’t want to be able to effectively plant thoughts in people’s heads?

How Do You Say That Word

Emma: So we’ve talked previously about how linguistics is something you’re interested in. How does this tie into communication? 

Aaron: Right. I would say linguistics is more of something that comes as a side passion of liking communication a lot because they’re related, and I wouldn’t say I know very much about it, I’m newly passionate about it and I’d like to know more. Like, Singlish is really, really interesting. 

Emma: I don’t get it. Like, okay, my friends constantly make fun of me for not being able to speak Singlish. So for those who don’t know, Singlish is not really a dialect. It’s like Singaporean slang.

Aaron: It’s known as a Creole English language. It’s an English language adapted by natives and incorporating different-

Emma: Okay, that was a whole lot more intellectual than what I was gonna say. I was just gonna say it’s a bunch of butchered language, right? It’s slapped on to English and English is already a butchered language. So it’s like…

Aaron: Yeah, it’s geared towards efficiency. Singlish is very, very efficient. 

Emma: Yeah. I’ve never heard so many creative words in my life. 

Aaron: I mean, me too, in the army. Like, I’ve never Googled so many Hokkien phrases in my life, some good, some not. This week, we were navigating in the forest. And I kept hearing the phrase, Oh, hor lan, hor lan. And I was like what, so I went back and I googled it right, and it turns out it actually is a mispronunciation of Holland. The country, Holland. Holland is a mispronunciation of the country Holland. And it means we’re so lost, we could be in Holland. And you say this in one word, that’s ridiculous to me. Yeah, so that’s why I love, like…

Emma: But I’ve also realised English is just not a particularly efficient language, as compared to…okay, like, Chinese is the next best thing I know, which is not well, but the point is, you know, in English for example, there’s so only so many words for love. But in Chinese, there are more words for different kinds of love. 

So, I don’t know, I just feel like from people who I’ve talked to, especially people who are multilingual, whether they speak like two languages or three, they’re like, oh, yeah, English is always a language that I struggle with, because there are nuances, but the nuances are not the same as in their language. 

Aaron: English is a bit all over the place, because I think it’s a very decentralised language. For example, you know, English borrows language from the Greek, from the Latin, and from- from all over the world, and yeah, it’s constantly adding languages and it’s different from let’s say, French, French has an authority on French words, and they only accept certain words. Every year, I believe. English is different.

If you use it, it becomes a word. Like, recently. What was that? Irregardless- irregardless now means regardless, because people used it that way. Try explaining that to a non English speaker.

Emma: Yeah, I remember I saw this meme. It was like as a non native English speaker seeing the word yacht was incredibly challenging. 

Aaron: I knew people who call it “yecht” and I don’t blame them, really. i don’t blame them.

Emma: When I was young. I was taught phonetics, that’s why I pronounced every syllable in the word. 

Aaron: Yeah, like English, here’s the rule, half of the time it applies and the other half there’s these things which you should know by experience. So I’m glad I grew up speaking English. That’s why reading is so important, and like, having books read out aloud to you is very nice. 

Emma: It’s like “salmon” versus “sALLmun”. I can’t stand it when people say sALLmun. 

Aaron: I don’t know which one it is…

Emma: I’m pretty sure that L is silent. 

Aaron: SALmon.

Emma: Salmon. 

Aaron: I’m pretty sure there’s a little “l” in there.

Emma: Salmon, sALLmun…

Aaron: Audience! You at home, why don’t you look it up? 

Emma: How to pronounce salmon correctly? 

“Salmon, salmon, salmon, salmon, salmon!”


The Essential Communication Checklist

Emma: When so much of communication is based heavily on context and body language, how do you begin to teach communication? 

Aaron: So one of the things that you teach in the NICC in the institute is that people are watching everything about you at all times. 

Emma: So not terrifying at all. [laughs]

Aaron: Yeah, It’s a little bit scary when you realise that in a way everyone’s watching when, especially when you’re up on the platform, they’re watching everything you do. And one thing we learned is that you could have the best speech in the world, you know, it was written very well and you memorise it perfectly. But if you’re standing wrong, you communicate to people you don’t care, people turn off. Whereas if your posture is great, like, your speech is not good…then you’re missing another part of the picture. 

So that’s one thing we teach, you have to watch out for the whole picture. And then we teach how to do very short presentations first, this is how we teach kids. First, you start with maybe telling a joke, because that’s a very easy way to introduce kids to speaking because kids love making other people laugh. I think it’s because when you as a kid make someone else laugh, it demonstrates that you have figured out the rules of the society to some extent, and kids like that. We give them an assignment like, come and prepare a joke, and tell it to us. And that is a way to learn the fundamentals, because although it doesn’t feel as serious, it’s not as stressful for a lot of kids, you are speaking in front of people. Yeah, it’s a great way to ease people into it.

And then we build onto more things like introducing yourself. And that is something that’s very, very useful for kids, because sometimes when I talk to people our age and ask them to introduce themselves in a way that is longer than just a cursory “Hi, my name is [insert name], how old am I.” No, they say “Oh there’s nothing interesting about me”, “Oh, I don’t do anything”. But really they do? 

Emma: Yeah.

Aaron: You know, when you get to know them, you’re like, oh, you do this and this and this? Everybody does. Most people do really interesting things, they just don’t know how to talk about it. So it’s very useful for kids to learn early on, that’s a way to introduce them to speaking. And these are more concrete than you expect. 

You know, it’s not, like I said earlier, it’s not magic. It’s more like a checklist than you expect, you tick these boxes, you do these things, you’re automatically communicating more effectively. 

Emma: And these are relevant across different cultures as well. Because like you mentioned, different cultures have different methods of communicating. 

Aaron: That’s interesting. To an extent, a lot of them are. And I think these work better in English, which is useful for us, you know, it’s not wrong, to learn how to communicate English, it’s just that you have to be aware when you go to another country of- of what’s different, like in Japan, I heard that when you’re a speaker, it’s common for for the audience to close their eyes and listen. Oh, for me, I’m used to the audience. The audience looking at me. 

Emma: You’re taught, okay, make eye contact with different people. 

Aaron: Right, for us eye contact means interest. But then Japan, closing your eyes apparently means you’re focusing and you’re listening. Whereas if I was a speaker up there, and I went there, I went to Japan to speak, and I saw people closing their eyes, I’d be like, what am I doing wrong here? You’re falling asleep. 

Emma: Yeah.

Aaron: So you do have to learn which parts to adapt. But it is important to learn how to speak in your own culture first, then you can go and adapt it to to wherever else you need to speak, but it’s important to learn…where you’re at first.

Follow up interview (2023):

1. What do you do now?

Aaron: I’m studying film at Elon University in North Carolina, USA, and I want to produce commercials. I’ve been working on short films and securing opportunities to shoot ads for people and businesses in the community.

2. Compared to the last time you were with us, what has changed?

Aaron: I think I’m a lot more organized and driven than I was a year ago. I certainly write less than I did when I was doing columns for the Alumni website, which I do miss. I’m also out of the army now, and life is really good.

3. Do you have tips or tricks for teen homeschoolers who want to continue homeschooling?

Aaron: Find a passion or hobby to go deep into, and really dive into it. Colleges and employers don’t need you to be super well-rounded, what really attracts them are people who show they are passionate, commited, and skilled beyond their years in a particular field. It doesn’t really matter what it is—it could be film, photography, music, starting your own business, designing an app…anything you like.

As a homeschooler, you have the unique flexibility to be able to go after these passions, and my advice would be to use that as much as possible.

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