By Marian Brady in The Conversation.
“I have something to say. I want to share it with you.” By tapping a few keys in a specific sequence, I have made a code emerge on the screen. When you see these words, the language area of your brain (usually the left side) converts the sequence into meaning. If I have selected well, this meaning will match the message I wanted to convey.
But this is only possible if the language area of your brain is functioning normally. For approximately 50,000 people in the UK each year, writing, reading, speaking and understanding may be affected by stroke-related damage. This is known as aphasia.
Language is complicated. To read and understand my opening paragraph, for instance, you need visual skills to see the words, sustained attention to read to the end of each sentence, and a memory of the meaning of earlier sentences. Meanwhile, spoken communication can be undermined by stroke-related impairments to the muscles required to produce speech (dysarthria), to hearing ability, and by other effects such as depression or fatigue.
To add to the challenge, language operates at different levels of complexity – from single-syllable words to lengthy and highly technical texts. Additionally, a growing number of people in today’s societies use more than one language – take London, where more than 100 different languages are in daily use. When it comes to rehabilitating someone’s language skills, specialist therapists have to take all of these issues into account.
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