Activity two: Try to have a ten minute conversation with two different people and DO NOT use the letter "n." Write your reflections of the experience. This may be challenging, because n is a letter that is used frequently in the English Language.
The first conversation I had was with my husband, and I told him beforehand about the challenge. We noticed that there were a lot of words that have “n” in them, including our last name (Norris), our daughter’s name (Catherine), his name (Jason), husband, language, English, French, Spanish (we were thinking of going multi-lingual at one point), and “and” itself. Not using “n” also rules out negatives: no, not, the “un” prefix (uncertain, unlikely), and it often inhibits the present continuous tense (going, laughing, working).
It felt a bit like we were playing Taboo because he kept catching me every time I messed up. I’m just glad he didn’t have a buzzer!
It was tough, but it got a bit easier by the end of the conversation, and I felt like I hit a rhythm with my speech. It felt stilted, though, and the smaller words kept tripping me up. I could quickly think of another word for the main noun or verb in the sentence, but prepositions were another story.
The second conversation was with my dad, and I didn’t fill him in on what I was doing. (If you’re reading this, sorry, Dad! It was still nice to chat!) I mentally rehearsed a few phrases before we talked, such as “How are you?” instead of “How’s it going?” and “I just called to say hi” instead of “I was calling to check in.” It was a bit easier than the conversation with Jason, but it was still tough!
Some slip-ups were unavoidable. When he asked about the weather, it was hard to think of another way to say it was raining. Again, though, my brain seemed to catch the gist of what I was trying to do by the end of the conversation, but it still felt stilted. My response times were too long, and I felt I couldn’t fully focus on the conversation.
It reminded me of some of the sections in chapter four of the text related to attention, fatigue during vigilance, and the consciousness of complex mental processes. Specifically, it seems that language might, to some extent, fall under an automatic process, but an exercise like this forces us to treat it as a controlled process. It was nice to feel as if my conversation returned to being a somewhat automatic process again!