When you get a little older, you often get, as we used to say in my old neighborhood “les portugaises ensablées” (oysters/ears full of sand).
Yes, because of the accumulation of sand in your “oyster” canal, you don’t hear as well as you used to, and it becomes important to listen more carefully to the person who is talking to you. But often, despite your best efforts, you don’t catch much of what is being said. And it is not entirely your fault, as some people would be quick to point out.
It has something to do with phonetics “The production of speech that looks at the interaction of different vocal organs, for example, the lips, tongue, and teeth, to produce particular sounds.”
Many, many people don’t speak properly. They mumble, they slur their words, they don’t articulate, they ignore syntax, they speak too low, too fast, or like Eliza Doolittle, they speak with an unpleasant accent. These poor souls are often unaware of this flaw, and unfortunately, it is not something that you would mention in polite society.
And then, there is also the pitch factor, the degree of highness or lowness of a tone. Women and children speaking in higher pitched voices are sometimes difficult to hear and understand.
Even on television, where it is extremely important to be clearly understood, many presenters don’t articulate properly. Many of them would do themselves a big favor by taking a few lessons from Professor Henry Higgins. They would have to attend daily classes until they could properly say “The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain!”
And to get a passing grade, Professor Higgins would have to finally say, “By George, she/he got it.”
So, as you can see, we “les durs de la feuille” are not entirely to blame for some awkward conversations. In a perfect world, everybody would speak with a mellifluous voice and there would not be any misunderstandings anywhere. There would be no wars.
I feel that since Ukrainian and Russian don’t sound exactly alike, Vladimir Putin might have misunderstood Volodymyr Zelensky and decided to grab a chunk of his territory to teach him how to speak Russian correctly. Actually, any excuse would have done.
Do you see how far this problem could go? So, I urge all the unskilled speakers to carefully watch their mouths, clean their teeth and exercise their tongues before uttering anything. We, the people with a standard pitch are tolerant, but you should not push us too far.
Thank you for your valuable cooperation.