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  • TEDx is all about spreading ideas

  • but what if you had an idea and you wanted to communicate it

  • with the person sitting next to you,

  • but you knew when you opened your mouth, the words wouldn't come out.

  • It might sound like I'm quoting the lyrical genius rapper, Eminem.

  • But no. This is how you might feel when you're nervous, shy,

  • scared, embarrassed, or just flat uncomfortable.

  • For people that have a speech impediment,

  • this is how they feel all the time before they are about to speak.

  • I was born in Tabriz, Iran, which is on the northern side of Iran,

  • close to the borders of Azerbaijan.

  • Now, in Tabriz, the language Azari is also spoken

  • but it's also the native language of Azerbaijan.

  • I grew up in a household where Azari was spoken at home,

  • and I was exposed to Turkish in various forms of media,

  • and Farsi everywhere else,

  • because it's the most commonly spoken language in Iran.

  • Now, with being exposed to these three languages

  • my family created its own hybrid language which consisted of these three languages

  • so we would say words that would mean the same thing

  • but would be easier to say.

  • So for words that meant the same thing but only had two syllables,

  • compared to a word that had three syllables,

  • I would say the word that had two syllables. Pretty simple.

  • But I did that more than my parents and the reason I did this

  • wasn't because it was easier, I just couldn't say it.

  • So I would substitute with easier words to say this.

  • I had a speaking problem at that time but it wasn't apparent.

  • People just assumed I was going through my baby talk phase

  • but I wasn't.

  • When I moved to America in '96, this all changed.

  • I got introduced to English.

  • This language is not like none of those three.

  • (Laughter)

  • There's no overlap. The sounds are different.

  • It's a complete new world.

  • The only person that speaks English in my household is the TV.

  • (Laughter)

  • My dad came here before so he was my role model.

  • I looked up to him because he could speak it the best.

  • When it came to me, staying at home, I just watched TV

  • grasped a little bit of English here and there,

  • But I didn't really speak it.

  • I was embarrassed to speak it because I couldn't speak it.

  • But this became obvious through my lack of speaking.

  • I used to speak through my body language.

  • If I wanted to talk, I used to act it out, like charades.

  • I used to read your body language in return.

  • Now, my charades phase, as my parents called it,

  • became evident when I was in preschool,

  • because in preschool, there is a moment

  • which my parents would never let me live down.

  • The teacher had even called my parents and told them to come in the class.

  • The teacher has reading time and during reading time,

  • the teacher sits in her rocking chair, rocks back and forth, reads her book,

  • and makes all of us sit, criss-cross, apple sauce,

  • on the carpet, listening to her.

  • There are two problems here.

  • I can't read your body language when you're just rocking back and forth,

  • and I don't understand English.

  • As a toddler, I can only listen for so long before I get bored,

  • and when I get bored

  • I was combing this girl's hair in front of me, like a Persian cat!

  • (Laughter)

  • There's two things I'm confused about

  • besides what the teacher was speaking, if the girl liked me back,

  • because it was apparent from my body language I liked her,

  • but that's a whole different talk in a whole different language.

  • (Laughter)

  • As times goes on, I go into elementary school.

  • In elementary school it became more evident

  • that I had trouble speaking so I went to see a therapist,

  • a speech therapist.

  • We worked together to pinpoint areas where I struggled,

  • and at one point,

  • I thought it was the entire alphabet I struggled with.

  • I figured it out. It was CH, C, S, TH, Ts. I'm going to stop there.

  • (Laughter)

  • So we worked on sounds but then we worked on phrases.

  • Phrases were especially difficult

  • because I just said words as he told me to say

  • but I knew I couldn't say them, and she knew that too, which was bad.

  • So we worked with these phrases but they were like tongue-twisters.

  • You know the tongue-twister in English: Sally sells... Come on, say it with me.

  • Audience: Sally sells seashells on the seashore.

  • I never really learnt that but that's not the point.

  • (Laughter)

  • She made me say this but I never couldn't say it so I would go home

  • where she told me to practice this, but I wouldn't.

  • I would go home and go to my best friend: the Thesaurus.

  • Because they had the answer to what I lacked.

  • The words I could say but meant the same thing.

  • So that exact same thing you said, that's how I feel when I was speaking English.

  • So I substituted that. It became: Sally hustles seashells on the beach.

  • (Laughter)

  • (Applause)

  • You get the gist but it doesn't really sound the same.

  • That's still how I speak now.

  • I use that word a lot so if you are near me

  • you can hear: hustle hustle hustle.

  • Why doesn't this kid ever say the word sell?

  • That's the reason why.

  • I got teased while I was going to school

  • because I used to talk like this growing up.

  • This put me in a state of isolation

  • but inside this isolation is where I found my passion.

  • This passion was running.

  • When I ran in elementary school,

  • I didn't have to talk and no one talked to me.

  • It was my safe area.

  • When I ran, there was something I was running away from:

  • the problem at hand.

  • But I enjoyed running so in my fifth grade,

  • my school put on a prize.

  • Whoever ran the most miles gets the prize.

  • And I thought subconsciously:

  • if I run the most miles, I will get the prize

  • and I will earn the respect of these kids that tease me.

  • Well, I ran the most miles, I got the prize, I got some respect

  • but that didn't change my speaking.

  • I was running away from the problem.

  • It wasn't until high school when someone said:

  • Aslan, if you want to be successful you have to get out of the comfort zone.

  • And I did that exact thing.

  • But what happened is that my flaws where being exploited

  • so when I spoke, I failed, and people laughed;

  • but the laughter for once didn't stop me. It kept me going.

  • The laughter motivated me.

  • Because I knew that when I laughed with them

  • I was connecting with them.

  • That connection was something I've wanted all my life.

  • So I failed, failed, failed, I connected, connected, connected

  • and this is where the Hello World moment hit me.

  • This is the part where my weakness becomes a strength.

  • Now I wanted to take my flaws, getting up my comfort zone to a new level.

  • So a person that can't speak English very well

  • takes a job selling.

  • So in my first job, I started selling pool supplies.

  • I went from being a SOI employee

  • within three months I have some of the highest units sold.

  • So I wanted to do this again, so I started selling cars.

  • I don't look like a typical car salesman

  • but I had a huge running curve to go through.

  • I wasn't the loudest one at the car dealership

  • but I did talk the most.

  • If you go back to the dealership and asked: who talked the most?

  • Without skipping a beat, everyone there would say my name.

  • And from this process, of this continuing with these flaws,

  • with this getting out of my comfort zone

  • even standing up here getting out of my comfort zone,

  • I've realized that something that I viewed as a weakness,

  • something I avoided, something I've been running away from,

  • I hit it straightforward.

  • I solved that problem by turning that weakness into a strength.

  • Then I turned it into an asset by capitalizing on it,

  • by seeing what I could do with it.

  • Putting me in a position where I had to do that, and face it.

  • Through this process, I've turned that weakness into a passion.

  • I love talking, any time you see me I'm probably talking.

  • (Laughter)

  • I'm going to leave you with this:

  • Speak loudly, speak proudly and get out of your comfort zone.

  • Thank you.

  • (Applause)

TEDx is all about spreading ideas

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【TEDx】Finding your voice by overcoming speech disorders: Aslan Maleki at TEDxOU

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    林岳霆 posted on 2015/04/15
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