Teacher, what colour is today?
I pause in my post-class tidying to look at the 6-year-old girl asking me the question with a thoughtful look on her face.
What day is today? I repeat her question back to her with the correct wording before answering. Today is Thursday.
She looks blankly at me. No, I know. Today is Thursday. But what colour is Thursday?
Surprised, I straighten up to look at her waiting patiently for my answer. Well, um… I think Thursday is orange. But… well, what colour was yesterday?
Green, she replies without hesitation. Wednesday is green. Tomorrow is Friday. Friday is yellow.
I cannot conceal my amazement. Yes!! I exclaim excitedly. It so is!!
The child wanders off, her question answered to her satisfaction, unaware that she has just blown my mind.
Other people see days as colours, too? Granted, it’s a 6-year-old child, but still – another human being shares this odd trait of mine! Friday is even the same colour! Her question made perfect sense to me, but I know that if I went up to one of my friends and asked them what colour Thursday is, I’d get a baffled look.
I can’t even explain exactly what I mean by “seeing” the days as colours. If it helps, I have this weird approach to language, in that I see the words written down in my head as I’m saying or hearing them. It’s like an autocue on a TV camera. As I’m speaking, the words are scrolling in front of my mind’s eye as if I’m reading them from a printed page. If you’re speaking to me, they’re being typed there as I listen. If you say a word I don’t know, I will stop you and ask you to spell it for me so that I can see it in my head – this is particularly important with names and foreign language words. If I don’t know how to spell someone’s name, I will not be able to remember it even a few seconds later. Recently this has been problematic for me as I meet more and more people with Afrikaans names, which are foreign to me and often pronounced differently from how they’re written. It took me several weeks to master the name of a new girl in our group of friends, despite spending significant amounts of time in her company, simply because the ‘j’ is a ‘y’ and the ‘o’ is a ‘u’. I still cannot remember my new colleague’s name from one conversation to the next because the ‘w’ is a ‘v’ and there’s an ‘o’ that’s not even there… and he’s been here since I got back from Ireland.
It’s all very strange. It’s also part of the reason why I failed so miserably at learning Korean. When I hear an unfamiliar word in French, for example, I either instinctively know (from my existing knowledge of the language) how it’s spelled, or I ask the speaker to spell it. Then it’s there in my mental dictionary, saved and ready to be recalled when needed. But when I hear a new word in Korean, it’s only sounds. I know the Korean alphabet, I can read it and write it and pronounce all the sounds, but it’s not the alphabet of my autocue. So, when I hear a new Korean word, it doesn’t scroll across the screen. Even when I ask for it to be spelled, it doesn’t appear in my head. I have to hear it over and over and over again, and see it written down on paper, and often even write it out phonetically in my autocue’s alphabet, before it will stick.
Anyway, the point of telling you all this (I’m sure you’re absolutely riveted) is to say that in general, the words that continuously scroll through my mind are in black print on a beige-y coloured background. Some words, however, are in colour. I do not know why. The coloured ones are seemingly random – apart from the days of the week. Days have always been in colour, and they’ve always been the same colour, my whole life, as far back as I can remember. The teacher in me made this little illustration for you.
Just another little insight into my mind, to further convince the general public that I am not entirely normal!
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