EBU (Junior Group) Excellent Work
My Dotted Life
Norway Solveig-Marie Oma (20/Female)
In reality, one would think this story is about my mum. She appreciates anything at Christmas time, as long as it has plenty of dots. We have dotted sofa pillows, dotted tea mugs, even a dotted shower curtain at our house.
But this isn’t about my mum, because I also love dots.
A seven year old girl sits in a classroom. In front of her there is something strange; a sheet of raised bumps in what appears to be random chaos. “Help! Am I supposed to learn this? This is going to take years!” she thinks. It didn’t. I still remember how I learned each letter in turn, just as the rest of my class was learning the regular letters. How I, like all beginners, mixed up E and I. How I struggled through a long sentence, and no longer remembered the beginning once I got to the end. And the first book, a story of Pippi Longstocking. So small, and yet so long. I was disappointed when I realized it wasn’t the whole book, but just the first story.
I quickly became friends with Braille, but I have not read enough fiction. Therefore I am not one of the really fast readers. Still, the older I get, the more fascinated I am. Many years went by before I truly understood the system in the alphabet, despite Braille being much more logical than normal writing. The ten first characters form the basis for the whole alphabet. Why did no one tell me this when I seven? I would have probably understood. After all, I was the one who was disappointed when we started school and spent half the day playing instead of learning. I couldn’t wait that long to learn to read. When I became blind and was to learn Braille, I had already cracked the reading-code two years prior. I can still read and write some normal writing.
This thirst for knowledge is perhaps one of the reasons that I have delved deeper into these dots a bit more than usual. Many are content with reading normal text and some mathematics, but I have tried to learn both contracted Braille and notes. Contracted Braille has unfortunately become rare, but when you know it, it’s genius for those of us who are not fast readers. And when it comes to notes: Many praise Louis Braille. They think he must have been a genius to invent a system of numbers and letters within the frame of only six dots. Well. If you think that is genius, you should take a closer look at music notation. Rarely have I seen a system so thoroughly logical and stylish. The nerd, who sat reading scientific articles online because we had such a poor history teacher, obviously loves this. I think Louis and I could have been good friends.
Where I sit in my room, I am surrounded by these wonder-dots. Next to me on my desk is the magazine where I read about this competition. On the bookshelves are textbooks, short stories and novels. On the CD-shelves everything is labelled with Braille, and the dots dance across the Braille terminal under my fingers while I write this. I was born around the time the first Braille terminals and the internet came along. Technology has managed to integrate my beloved dots in a wonderful way. I look forward to someone creating a computer program for Braille notes that really works someday.
I am, as mentioned, not the perfect Braille reader. I’m not the one who reads the fastest, and I must admit I mainly listen to audiobooks and radio plays. Still, these dots have crept in under my skin. Strange, that I am not bumpy all over, so important have they become to me. Admittedly I mostly listen to fiction, as I cannot stand listening to text books. It is true, I use synthetic speech quite a bit on my computer, but I get very uncomfortable when I don’t have my Braille terminal. The reason is simply that without Braille we, who do not see, become illiterate, the whole bunch of us. Having to write at the top of the history test: “I apologize for misspellings of proper nouns in Russian and French, but unfortunately I only have the history book in audio”. Not being able to proofread your own text properly. Having chattering plugs in your ears while the teacher is speaking. Honestly, not only does it look disrespectful, it also makes it unnecessarily difficult to pay attention in class. Poor ears.
Dots are cool. But these dots are not just cool, they are completely essential. With them we have a complete system of writing, and don’t have to be illiterate. It is hard to learn proper spelling if one only listens to audiobooks – that’s a fact. And if you need more reasons to learn it, I have some here:
- You won’t have to despair over weird fonts and illegible handwriting.
- You can read in complete darkness, under your desk, under your blanket, and so on.
- You can write in your journal, safe in the knowledge that no one can discover your dark secrets.
- If you hate getting flyers pushed on you by all sorts of activists on the street, just ask them if they have it in Braille. I guarantee that you will be left alone.
- And last but not least, you can impress everyone you know, because they believe it is really difficult.
I have always been honest. When my dear, but odd, religions teacher in junior high school asked what I was really sitting there reading, I told her truthfully: “It’s the social sciences textbook”. It was not the first time, and not the last time neither, that I have read a different subject than what it says on the timetable. How can a poor teacher know which textbook it is? An open binder with dots will for them always be an open binder with dots. If you, reading this, are a teacher, you can take comfort in that I early learnt to be responsible for my own learning and that I have good grades from school – even in religion.
Do not underestimate our dots. They are important, complete and stylish. Everyone needs a written language.
So, to all restaurant owners:
Make a menu in Braille. It is tiring for people to always have to read aloud.
To textbook producers:
Textbooks in audio are frustrating and result in terrible misspellings. Had our dear
Louis seen all the horrible attempts at French, he would have had a fit.