Monday, October 10, 2011

Talking "tiny", mumbling, and/or unclear lipreading

No, this is not about little people who mumble at high speed. ;) This is about a certain kind of people who fall into the unfortunate category of "Impossible to Lipread".

Those who fall under the column heading tend to:

  • mumble

  • whisper

  • 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. :)


A Daft Scots Lass said...

Some things happen for a reason!

not displayed said...

Perhaps the reason you couldn't understand her was because she was sick. At least the replacement teacher was much better

Welcome to the Garden of Egan said...

I never thought about different accents or slang or lisps.
Maybe everyone should have to go without hearing for 24 hours.
They would shave their mustaches and quit licking their lips.
They would enunciate.

Now I'm curious to know if I would be understood. I think I talk normal.

Anonymous said...

I can't even begin to understand how hard/frustrating it must be to lip read. I have often wished that I could but without a real need to do so I doubt I will ever learn. I used to teach sign language to the children I taught...though I doubt how accurate what I was teaching them was as I know there is conversational as well as other types of signing.

As always I am intrigued by your posts. I am so happy to hear that you were able to complete the class with success.

DCHY said...

ADSL - that's true. :)

Mynx - seems like you have a valid theory there, but I doubt it. She barely closed her mouth so it was impossible for me to understand. Who knows?

GoE - we do that every year and that's called Silent Weekend. In fact, mine is happening on the 1st weekend of November. You should check into the availability of silent retreats in your area. :)

Jewels - I am pleased to hear that you teach sign language...means we can converse with each other. LOL

Anonymous said...

I love catching up on your posts....I needed a wee giggle.

The south....eeesh, can only imagine. I (because of where I lived) developed a bit of a drawl for many years. Thankfully I only get it back when very, very tired. ;-)