Meet The Backwards-Speaking Girl

Meghan Shea is a college student with an odd talent: she can read and speak backwards. Host Liane Hansen talks to Shea about her unusual linguistic ability, and picks up a few pointers.

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Ms. MEGHAN SHEA: (Speaking backwards)

LIANE HANSEN, host:

Can you understand what our guest is saying?

Ms. SHEA: (Speaking backwards)

HANSEN: She's not speaking a foreign language - she's speaking English - but backwards. Meghan Shea is a biology student at the University of North Carolina, but she's become more recently known as the girl who can shift her speech into reverse. Meghan Shea joins us now from the UNC campus in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Welcome to the program, Meghan.

Ms. SHEA: Hi, thanks.

HANSEN: When did you discover that you were able to speak backwards?

Ms. SHEA: I discovered it sophomore years of high school. I was riding the bus to school one day and a friend was talking to me and I realized that I could see the words that she was saying backwards.

HANSEN: Really? You could almost see them in your mind?

Ms. SHEA: Yeah.

HANSEN: Is it true you once had a teacher who made you recite the preamble to the Constitution backwards?

Ms. SHEA: I did.

HANSEN: Could you do that for us?

Ms. SHEA: Sure. (Speaking backwards)

HANSEN: That's Meghan Shea doing the preamble to the Constitution backwards. Have you ever taped yourself talking backwards and then played the tape?

Ms. SHEA: I haven't. Some people have tried to do that though and it doesn't work, because the blending of the letters backwards is different than it would be forwards. Like if you had a word that had G-H-T at the end, like light, I pronounce all the letters, so, backwards it would be thgil, which isn't going to sound the same forwards.

HANSEN: Now, you don't do the sentences backwards, you do each separate word in the sentence backwards.

Ms. SHEA: Yes.

HANSEN: Wow. It's even more complicated than I thought. So, can you say or can you teach me to say this is NPR News?

Ms. SHEA: Sure. Okay. So, this would be si-hi-tah. And is is si. NPR is just RPN.

HANSEN: Okay.

Ms. SHEA: And news is swen.

HANSEN: Swen. Okay. Meghan Shea, also known as the backwards speaking girl, and she joined us from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. Meghan, thank you very much.

Ms. SHEA: Thank you.

HANSEN: Si-hi-tah si RPN Swen - this is NPR News.

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