INTERVIEW WITH ADRIENNE ALAIR
Q1: DO YOU HAVE SYNESTHESIA?
Q2: DESCRIBE YOUR PERSONAL EXPERIENCE WITH COLOR?
I associate every letter and number with a color, which I think is called color-grapheme synesthesia. They all have very specific shades. When I read a word it's kind of like the letters take on their colors in my head, although I can still see what color they're actually written in. I also see the colors in my head when I hear, say, or think a word, but unless I'm actively trying to picture the word I kind of just see the colors, not the shape of the letters.
I also have another kind of synesthesia where I visualize concepts spatially - like the year is a circle, numbers and the alphabet have their own specific layouts etc. In these visualizations the months are usually the same color as the first letter in their name.
That section of the year circle is red even if I'm not thinking about the word 'march'. I'm always trying to figure out what the background color is in these visualizations. It's some kind of pink/purple/brown but I can never see it clearly enough, and I think maybe it changes.
Q3: WHEN DID YOU REALIZE YOUR SYNESTHESIA?
When I was 12 I read a book called "A Mango Shaped Space" about a girl with synesthesia, and I was like "Oh, I have that!" It's not so much that I thought everyone had it, but I didn't realize there was a name for it or that there were other people who had it. I thought it was just a weird thing about me.
Q4: DO YOU KNOW OTHERS WHO ALSO HAVE SYNESTHESIA?
I think my dad has it but he doesn't seem to feel his associations as strongly as I do, and he says that most of his colors are neutrals like gray or beige.
Q5: OTHER DETAILS OR STORIES —
I study languages so it's interesting to see what colors I associate with new letters I learn. When I studied Russian most of the letters were just the same color as their Latin alphabet equivalents, like Г makes a G sound so it's gray like G. The Cyrillic letter P is yellow like the Latin P even though it actually makes an R sound. The letter Ш (sh) is kind of a grainy grayish-purple because it's a combination of S, which is purple, and H, which is gray. I've started studying Chinese a bit now and that's really interesting, some of the characters take on the color of the first letter of their pinyin (the system of writing the pronunciation of Chinese words with Latin letters), like 子 is written zi3 in pinyin so it has the same color as the letter Z.
I actually find that synesthesia really helps me remember things, like words in foreign languages, people's names, phone numbers etc. Even if I can't remember it exactly I might remember it was red, or even just that it had a warm color scheme, and piece it together from there. In addition to its practical purposes I also just think synesthesia makes everything a little more beautiful since it gives everything color. There are certain combinations of letters/numbers that I'm drawn to for their colors. I particularly like brown, purple, and green letters/numbers together, even though I don't usually think those colors go together very well.