Written by Tulsi Patel
Every day I went to a secluded area of the school to the room with monkeys hanging on the wall. In Mrs. Haney’s private jungle, sometimes I worked alone, and sometimes there would be other children there. The other children in the room were of Spanish descent. When they came, we mostly played games instead of working on worksheets on how to pronounce words such as cat and mat. We would gather around her rectangular wooden table that occupied a majority of the room. During one of the games, I had to say fog. When I was told to repeat the word, I said, “Frog.” Mrs. Haney told me again, “Say fog.” “Frog,” I repeated. No matter how many times I tried to say fog, I was unable to. When I saw her for my other sessions, she made me say fog until I repeated it correctly.
Taxi was the most troublesome word I dealt with when I was five years old. I was sitting in my parents’ room with a large bin of toys that ranged from Barbie to Polly Pocket products. I would place the doll clothing near my parents’ bed and would pretend that the clothes were in department stores. My older sister, Krupa, and I took a doll and pretended that they were actual people who were buying items from the miniature stores. In order for the dolls to travel quickly to a store, we developed a taxi service. As I attempted to say taxi, I heard laughter coming from my sister. I was embarrassed at first when I could not say taxi properly. She tried to correct me, but I never was able to pronounce the x properly. I continuously repeated the word that day and tried to prove to her that I could say it correctly. It never worked. When my sister was at school, I would practice saying taxi until, one day, I finally said it properly.
Even though I had mastered fog and taxi, I struggled with speaking in front of my peers in high school, especially when I joined Mock Trial. For my first Mock Trial competition, my team went to a school in New Haven; we were stuck in a tiny classroom. The three lawyers sat in three desks that were pushed together, and the witnesses sat behind their attorney. I sat on the far left side of the table, while the most experienced attorney sat in the middle. My nervousness would not go away after I entered the room. I set all the materials I needed on the table: a packet of questions I was going to ask the witness, pictures from the crime scene that were going to be used as evidence, and an affidavit. “Do not pronounce affidavit as Aphrodite,” I kept saying to myself. During the practice trials, I always said Aphrodite instead of saying affidavit. I did not want to make that mistake in the real trial. Every second that passed, I realized that all the people next to me helped me get this far; they forced me to talk louder, fixed my grammar, and helped me pronounce words accurately. It was my turn to call up my witness for the case. I got up from my seat and proceeded to say loudly and clearly the words I had prepared to begin my case, “The Prosecution would like to call Taylor Peterson to the stand.”