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Chiwenga suffers from a rare condition

by Dr Masimba Mavaza
06 January 2019 | 22844 Views
Zimbabweans in the social media have taken chances to cartoon the Vice President Cde Chiwenga because of his unique pronunciation of the words with letter "L" in English. Most people have found joy in trying to dismiss the greater content of his words or speech because he has a very strong Zimbabwean accent and indeed his tongue has no respect for the letter "L".  Unfortunately those who lambast the Vice President are typical black Zimbabweans who still suffer from colonialism. They have a belief that speaking in English is a sign of affluence and progress. In short most of them spend their time perfecting their English and achieve nothing but fluent speaking.

Coming to the Vice President Chiwenga his failure to pronounce "L" does not reflect on his capacity to run the country. The man ran our army which is arguable the best disciplined outfit in Africa. His problems with the ability to roll his tongue to L el is a medical condition which is called Rhotacism (speech Impediment)

"Rhotacism is a speech impediment that is defined by the lack of ability, or difficulty in, pronouncing the sound R. Some speech pathologists, those who work with speech impediments may call this impediment de-rhotacization because the sounds don't become rhotic, rather they lose their rhotic quality. It could also be called a residual R error."

The word rhotacism comes from the New Latin rhotacism meaning peculiar or excessive use of [r]. The Latin word came from Ancient Greek word rhōtakismós which means to incorrectly use "rho" which is the equivalent of the Greek R. For language nerds, here's a really great explanation of how the word came into being.

How does rhotacism work in different languages?
Rhotacism is, in theory, more common among people whose native language has a trilled R. For example, in Spanish the "rr" is a trilled R. Other languages with a trilled R include Bulgarian, Hungarian, Arabic, Finnish, Romanian, Indonesian, Russian, Italian, and most Swedish speakers.Some people might mock Asians, specifically Chinese, for not being able to pronounce the English word "broccoli" correctly- rather pronouncing it "browccoli". This isn't due to a rhotacism, however. It's actually due to the fact that Mandarin (Chinese) words can have an "r" sound in the beginning of a word, but not in the middle or end of a word. This leads them to have issues in their phonotacticsand creates an inability to pronounce the English "R" in the middle of words.

The leader of Hezbollah, Hasan Nasrallah, is a Lebanese leader and is mocked for his rhotacism when he says, "Amwīka" and "Iswā'īl" for the Arabic Amrīka (America), and Isrā'īl (Israel). He is a native Arabic speaker- a language which has the trilled R. Notice how he puts a W sound in those two words where the R sound usually is.

Rhotacism as a speech impediment
Using a strict classification, only about 5%-10% of the human population speaks in a completely normal way. Everyone else suffers from some type of speech disorder or another. For children of any language, the R sounds are usually the hardest to master and often end up being the last ones a child learns. That's why baby talk if you think about it, doesn't really use explicit or strong R sounds. In English, rhotacism often comes off as a W sound which is why "Roger Rabbit" sounds like "Woger Wabbit". R is often more difficult because a child has to learn the different combination of the /r/ sounds, not just the letter itself, unlike other letters. For example, when it comes before and after vowel sounds. The combination of a vowel with the /r/ sound is called a phenome and in English, there are eight combinations of these:

A speech impediment is a speech disorder, not a language disorder. Speech disorders are problems in being able to produce the sounds of speech whereas language disorders are problems with understanding and/or being able to use words. Language disorders, unlike speech disorders, have nothing to do with speech production.

Often what happens is that the person speaking isn't tensing their tongue enough, or not moving their tongue correctly (up and backward depending on the dialect) which makes the W or "uh" sound come out. It may also be that the person is moving their lips instead of their tongue.

In medical contexts, rhotacism is the inability to pronounce or difficulty in pronouncing the sound r. Speech pathologists call the condition de-rhotacization, because the sounds lose their rhoticquality rather than becoming rhotic. So the loss of the rhotic culture in a speech is not a conscious activity. It is an impediment and must be classified under the same class as disability. It is an art which is usually learnt during childhood. A child will master the difficult words last and this culture may live on until adulthood. Considering that all his life the VP has been a soldier and soldiers are not public speakers or they are not supposed to be visible to the public the poor VP did not have a chance of sharpening his pronunciation skills.

Rhotic sounds are usually the last ones a child masters. Some people never learn to produce them; they substitute other sounds, such as the velar approximant, the uvular approximant (often called the French R), and the uvular trill.

In English, the most common occurrence of this type is a pronunciation perceived as closer to [w] (typically, though, actually the labiodental approximant [ʋ]), which is known as r-labialisation. This form of rhotacism has often been used in English-language media for comedic effect, since it evokes among English speakers a childlike way of pronouncing the letter R, an example being Elmer Fudd's pronunciation of "rabbit" [ˈɹ̠ʷæbɪ̈t] as "wabbit" [ˈwæbɪ̈t] in Looney Tunes cartoons. Often, people with the condition are mistakenly referred to as a person with a lisp, which is a completely different condition.

Most people have words they cannot pronounce even when they are speaking in their own language. This does not lower their confidence at all. It is merely an impediment which needs our sympathy not turning the victim into a laughing stock. Rhotacism is more common among speakers of languages that have a trilled R such as Shona  from Zimbabwe Arabic, Bulgarian, Finnish, Hungarian, Indonesian, Italian, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, and Swedish(except in the provinces of Skåne, Halland, Blekinge, Öland and southern Småland). The first language usually is rich in R and it is identified by the strength emphasized on R. This then makes the speech from a person of such language background tilt towards R in a quick replacement of L.

CHIWENGA NOT THE ONLY ONE. There are so many people world over who have struggled with speech  impidement and still succeeded in life .




Many business executives, actors, actresses, professional athletes and even politicians have struggled with speech problems from lisping to stuttering. King George VI was so embarrassed by his stutter that he hired speech-language pathologist and greatly improved his public speaking. Some famous people with this condition are James Earl Jones: Actor James Earl Jones is a Broadway, television, and movie star. He is well known for his voice as Darth Vader in Star Wars, and his familiar voice is the voice of CNN. Jones is featured in the Stuttering Foundation's Famous People Who Stutter brochure. He received the 2008 Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award for helping advancing literacy, the arts and humanities on a national and local scale.

Nicole Kidman:  This Oscar award-winning actress is known for her performances in Dead Calm, The Hours, To Die For, Batman Forever, and Rabbit Hole. She suffered from stuttering as a child and ultimately overcame her stammer with hard work and speech therapy.
Bruce Willis: Bruce Willis has starred in more than 60 movies, including the with Die Hard series. Other popular films include Pulp Fiction, Armageddon, and The Sixth Sense. Being the leading actor in some of the greatest action movies, Willis has had stuttering problems throughout his youth and was always scared it would affect his acting career. In an interview for GQ Magazine, Willis said he felt acting helped him overcome his stuttering.

 Michael Phelps, one of the greatest Olympians of all time with a record 22 medals (18 of them gold!), confessed to being teased about his speech impediment as a child. "When I talked fast, I'd drop my Ls and add Ss to words, and if I tried to tell people I didn't have a lisp, I'd usually lisp the word lisp," Phelps wrote in his book Michael Phelps: Beneath the Surface. That certainly didn't stop him from pushing his personal limits to achieve greatness in his field.

Tiger Woods: Tiger Woods is a professional golfer whose achievements rank him among the most successful golfers of all time. Tiger Woods had stuttering problems at childhood but he got past it through hard work and practice. He admitted doing everything possible to conquer his speech impediment including talking to his dog until he would fall asleep. He has since become one of the most successful golfers the world has ever known.

Bill Walton: Bill Walton is an NBA All-Star and member of Basketball Hall of Fame. He is also a well-known NBC Sports commentator. Walton led the NBA in both rebounds per game and blocked shots per game in 1976-77, and was selected to the NBA All-Star Game but did not participate due to an injury. Walton has had a lifelong problem with his speech and communication skills.

Politicians Who Overcame a Speech Impediment
Vice President C Chiwenga Zimbabwe is now nicknamed Mr rivhorushion for his struggle with the letter L. He joins other high profile people like Vice President Joseph Biden:  He began his political career when he was first elected to the Senate in 1973 at the age of 30, making him the sixth-youngest senator in U.S. history. In an interview with People Magazine, Biden opened up about his speech impediment and how his mother's support helped him overcome his stuttering.

Winston Churchill: He served as the British prime minister from 1940 to 1945 and again from 1951 until 1955. A noted statesman and orator, Churchill was also an officer in the British Army and an author. He described himself as having a speech impediment, which he consistently worked to overcome. There are many sources that claim that in addition to stuttering, Churchill suffered from a lisp and the condition known as cluttering. Elmer Fudd in Looney Tunes Barry Kripke in The Big Bang Theory is depicted as having this speech impediment. However, he has problems with both "R" and "L" sounds. His Siri on his iPhone answers him back as "Bawwy". He is last seen in Season 11 episode "The Bow Tie Asymmetry", at the end of the wedding, singing the song "At Last" as "At Wast".
In the 1986 animated film An American Tail, the character Gussie Mouseheimer (voiced by Madeline Kahn) also replaces 'R' and 'L' with 'W', similar to Elmer Fudd, especially when saying the word 'rally', pronouncing it as 'wawwy'. In the 1987 film The Princess Bride, the character known as The Impressive Clergyman also has problems with multiple sounds, including "R" and "L"
The most known common struggles with words, is the president of China who pronounce Zimbabwe as CHIMBABWE. It is COMMON WITH ALL Chinese they have a big struggle pronouncing the word Z. When they speak there is no social media bashing of them. But when our own VP speaks going through the same challenges it is his own people who will laugh at him.

So basically we don't use the same auditory cues as you when parsing speech. The auditory cues people pick up on are language-specific and dialect-specific.

Children learning a language might not hear the same cues as you, and are still learning which language-specific cues to produce and pick up on. It's not such an uncommon phenomenon and actually also happens with the letter L, a phenomenon known as lambdacism. Sometimes people mistake these speech impediments for a lisp, of which they are not.

So in actual fact Chiwenga struggles with the letter L and that does not reflect on his ability. Coming to think of it he is one of the leaders in the world who is talented. He can speak Shona, Theresa May cannot understand one word of Shona. Chiwenga speaks Ndebele and the president of America can never utter one word in Ndebele. Chiwenga speaks Portuguese and the president of France will need an interpreter to understand it. Chiwenga speaks in English without an L and he must be applauded for that. The struggle with L is a condition not a sign of education or lack of it.

It is a shame that we are the ones who laugh at one of us for trying what others have given up on. Chiwenga's way of articulating English must be rewarded not castigated. In short the people are bullying the VP and abusing his condition which he cannot control.
Those who make jokes out of his condition are abusing the VP and are very insensitive to his human plight.

vazet2000@yahoo.co.uk


Chiwenga pronunciation Zanu-PF


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Source: Dr Masimba Mavaza

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