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The Way We Talk    cover image

The Way We Talk 2016

Highly Recommended

Distributed by Collective Eye Films, 2305 SE Yamhill Street, Suite 101, Portland OR 97214; 503-232-5345
Produced by Michael Turner and Alyssa Burge
Directed by Michael Turner
DVD, color, 80 min.

Middle School - General Adult
Communication Disorders, Documentaries, Genetics, Medicine, Speech Disorders, Speech Therapy, Stuttering

Date Entered: 10/05/2016

Reviewed by Joseph Baumstarck, Jr., University of Louisville, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Ivy Tech Community College

The Way We Talk is a superb film documenting Michael Turner’s struggle to understand stuttering and to come to terms with his stuttering. Using himself as the narrator he demonstrates directly how stuttering affects his life and forces the viewer to experience some of the discomfort with him. Despite the almost painful, at times, struggle the narrator has telling his story because of his stuttering the narration is clean and easily understandable. In this documentary he takes us through his struggle to understand more about his condition which he had just accepted before. Along the way viewers are informed about the high genetic relationship to stuttering which is usually found in family groups. Despite the high concordance between genetics and stuttering science still has no specific answers as to exactly how genetic transmission occurs or an agreed upon mechanism for the disorder. The narrator asks many very good questions along the way and the viewer is part of the struggle to find answers. Unfortunately, the viewer is left as unsatisfied by the lack of answers as the narrator. But, the search reveals many things about the disorder and the people who are afflicted. Hopefully, viewers will be more conscious of the difficulties faced by these people and more understanding of their struggles to communicate. Michael Turner and the other people with stuttering interviewed in this film make the viewer painfully aware how the inability to communicate smoothly and effortlessly as most people appear able to leaves the stutterer socially disadvantaged despite normal or even above normal intelligence. The difficulty with certain sounds and sound combinations are shown as keeping stutterers from even ordering items off a menu that they know in advance are difficult for them to say without stuttering. Stress obviously worsens the condition as several of the interviewees demonstrate when interviewed for the film.

The documentary visits several treatment and study centers which work with this disorder including speech therapists, the Oregon Health and Science University Stutterer’s Support Group, a camp in North Carolina for children who stutter, and the Japan Stuttering Project in Osaka. Although the results of therapy are beneficial there is no cure and even with therapy stutterers speak slower, less, and require more effort to do so. Despite the problems though the narrator comes to terms with his condition and realizes that it is a part of who he is. In the end he makes the surprising observation that after all these years with this problem he would not recognize his own voice if he did not stutter and decides that it is such an integral part of who he is that he would have to struggle with rebuilding his identity as a non-stutterer.

This highly recommended film is technically sound and has won several awards. It should be in all film collections and is well suited for use in school classrooms, medical treatment facilities, speech therapy programs, and should be viewed by anyone who stutters or knows someone who does. The way Michael Turner uses this documentary to pursue answers makes an excellent model for others who face difficulties that they do not fully understand. The self-discovery that occurs along the way to finding answers gives this film relevance for a wide audience.


  • Jury Award, Newburyport Documentary Film Festival, 2015
  • Platinum Award Winner, Spotlight Doc Awards, 2015