Those who fall under the column heading tend to:
- talk in low voice
- wear very bushy mustaches
- thick accents (usually foreign)
I have tricks to help me build "lipreading habits" with everyone. What I meant by that is once I figure out how a certain person would pronounce words, I can get into their habits and be able to lipread them more effectively. This does NOT mean I lipread flawlessly or understand better than 60% most of the time. I have yet to meet a deaf person who can lipread flawlessly, never mind that Sue Thomas, the deaf FBI agent.
I once knew a young guy who had this habit of "lisping" the f sounds with the th sounds, like saying "are you death?" instead of "are you deaf?" upon meeting me for the first time. Then about 10 years later, I had a manager who kept saying "bof" instead of "both", which I understood clearly because of my prior experience with that young guy. The weird thing was, I was told this is how some black people talk (which I didn't know at the time)...and this young guy is white.
The point being, people have their ways of saying words, accents or not. I lived in the South (have relatives who still does), in the Northeast (upstate New York), and the Midwest. The worst/impossible accent for me to comprehend? That would be Russian or Slavic accents, which totally kills my ability to lipread.
I've had to deal with new people each and every time I meet when they do not know how to sign. It's literally a pain in the butt when I have a new class and I have to build on the lipreading habits. The environment in a classroom is socially rigid - I can't just jump in and say, "Excuse me, I missed that...can you repeat?" over and over. The roll call is always the best way for me to begin my building process because I can pick out my own name as a teacher goes down the list of students...until I hit the wall in that teacher.
I was in my first year of community college and I initially thought I was in the wrong room for an English-related class (I believe it was Literature or some advanced writing) because I was only 18 and everyone else looked to be in their 20's or older. I sat down in the front row to give me the vantage point. An old woman shuffled into the room and she had the shakes from advanced age. When she spoke, her lips barely moved and she kept licking her lips to moisten them.
I sat there, blankly looking at her. Not one word was discernible. Then she pulled out the attendance sheet and...I knew that I wasn't in top half due to my last name and I stared hard at her mouth. Uehj owme? Lieg ahl? This went on like this and I kept staring for my name, knowing fully well that she would say my name again if I "missed" it and I'd get to jump in...
I understood NONE of anything, not even my own name. I waited until after the class to talk to her and I introduced myself. She said something I didn't understand. I talked with her some more, but I was going nowhere in terms of understanding her at all. I started to freak out and I said something about having to go and I left.
I sweated about going back. How was I going to get through the second day, let alone the whole semester?
Second day. I sat in the front row again. My heart was beating wildly. A different teacher came in and explained that she is the substitute teacher. She said the original teacher needed surgery and would not be coming back for the semester.
Wait a minute...I understood the substitute!
I breezed through the semester with her and I even signed up with her for another class the following semester. :)