When did Helen Keller say her first word?

Answered by Frank Schwing

According to historical records and Helen Keller’s own accounts, she said her first word before the age of one. However, it is important to note that her ability to speak and communicate verbally was greatly impacted after she became deaf, blind, and mute at the age of 19 months.

Helen Keller’s early life was relatively normal, and she was able to communicate with her family through spoken language. She was born on June 27, 1880, in Tuscumbia, Alabama, and her first word is reported to have been “water.” This significant moment occurred when Helen was just a few months old and she was being given water from a pump by her teacher, Anne Sullivan.

However, at the age of 19 months, Helen fell ill with a severe illness that left her deaf and blind. The exact nature of her illness is still debated among medical professionals, but it is believed to have been either meningitis or scarlet fever. This sudden loss of her senses had a profound impact on her ability to communicate using spoken language.

With her senses impaired, Helen’s world became dark and silent, and she struggled to make sense of her surroundings. She became increasingly frustrated and isolated, as she was unable to understand or be understood by others. It was during this difficult time that Helen’s parents sought the help of Anne Sullivan, a young teacher who would become Helen’s lifelong companion and mentor.

Anne Sullivan, who herself had experienced visual impairment in her childhood, employed a method known as finger spelling to teach Helen how to communicate. She would trace letters onto Helen’s hand, helping her associate the tactile sensation with specific words. Through this method, Helen gradually began to understand and express herself.

It was through this painstaking process of communication that Helen Keller was able to regain some form of language and expression. She learned to sign using a manual alphabet, which allowed her to spell out words and communicate with others who understood this form of communication. It was a slow and challenging journey, but Helen’s determination and resilience helped her overcome the barriers she faced.

Helen Keller’s breakthrough moment came when she made the connection between the manual alphabet and the objects and ideas they represented. One day, while Anne Sullivan was pumping water onto Helen’s hand, she spelled out the word “water” into Helen’s other hand. In that instant, Helen understood the concept and made the connection between the tactile sensation and the word that represented it. This realization opened up a whole new world of communication for Helen.

From that moment on, Helen Keller’s progress in language acquisition was remarkable. She quickly learned to associate words with objects, actions, and emotions, and her vocabulary expanded rapidly. With the support of Anne Sullivan, she went on to learn multiple languages, including English, French, German, and Latin, and became an eloquent speaker and writer.

Helen Keller said her first word before the age of one, but her ability to communicate verbally was greatly impacted after she became deaf, blind, and mute at the age of 19 months. Through the dedicated efforts of her teacher Anne Sullivan, Helen was able to regain some form of language and expression, ultimately becoming an inspiration to millions around the world.