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Returning to School Part 1: Cued Speech & Accurate Sound Representation

Posted Jun 13 2009 12:12am
So, while I wear my implant all the time, I hear but not HEAR- I only truly understand the environmental noises. And while that is wildly useful (Some noises I've noticed in this past month: oven timer beeping, the door opening signaling the arrival of someone, being able to follow voices in my class discussion) I want MORE.

Classes loomed over me and with it, a certain sadness. It had everything to do with the monotonous repetition of sameness in how I process information. That is to say, I use sign language interpreters. I wanted it to be different yet I had known it wouldn't be this quarter.

I had a CART transcriber for my first two classes of chemistry. CART stands for Communication Access Realtime Translation. Basically, someone sits next to me with a special typewriter that is connected to a small laptop, and allows them to type down everything that's being said. It was very fascinating to see it in practice since she did indeed capture EVERYTHING that was being said by the professor (although not actually in realtime, more like a 7 second lag) It felt like the human dimension was being taken away although I loved the direct verbatim style, because I am wildly fond of reading and absorb well that way.

So, she asked if I liked it and said she'd love to transcribe for me the rest of the quarter. I replied that I liked it. I didn't say anything about her transcribing, though. I wish I could have both- the human interaction and the amazing accuracy without the paraphasing that can sometimes occur with interpreters.

An idea began simmering at the edge of my mind.... Since I can access the SOUNDS of language with my implant, why should I have to watch sign language interpreters if there's OTHER interpreters out there who can represent what I'm hearing more accurately? With sign language there's a slight lag as well as the problematic tendency of people using words that aren't present in sign language, so they get converted to their simplistic versions. The only example I can think of doesn't have to do with vocabulary but rather with English cliches, but I hope you will get the idea. If someone were to say the phrase, "elbow grease" it'd get signed as "hard work."

There is a way to match up signs with sounds other than SEE (Signing Exact English). It's called cued speech. Cued speech is the use of 8 handshapes to represent consonant sounds and 4 handshapes to represent vowels.

It's not a language, but rather a way of representing what's already there. Cued speech is universal, which also came of great interest to me. You can cue in Spanish, even cue a Southern dialect with accurate representation.

I started researching with a zest and emailing people. I asked my school if it was possible to get a cued speech interpreter. The response was
"There is *one* cued speech interpreter in Washington State (that I know of). She lives in the Seattle area. We might be able to get her for future quarters.

This is something you'd want to discuss with us though."

I thought, "Hmm... so I WOULD be able to get a cued speech transliterator if I wanted to. Let's go ahead and learn it then!"

How does this apply to those of you with cochlear implants? Well, it can help with better lipreading, more accurate matching-up of sounds with words and maintain or improve speech. For me, I wish 110% to learn speech better so I can communicate easier with others. I also really want to redirect my brain to the IMPLANT, the auditory part of things instead of the visual. I found a site
at that said

If development of speech is desired, Cued Speech can support speech and articulation skills by:

  • focusing attention on the mouth
  • reinforcing the pattern of phonemes within a word or phrase
  • identifying the speech sound(s) and syllables being targeted
  • being a motoric reminder and trigger of speech production
  • integrating sound, sight, and motor aspects to make learning more fun!

So, knowing that HSDC teaches cued speech to infants, I emailed them asking about if they knew where I could learn. Turns out they have an upcoming workshop for cued speech October 17 and 18th!! Both are all day but only $10 for me. Such a good deal because I know there are people who are professionals who will have to pay $120 for the same workshop. I'm going for sure. It will be easier learning from someone instead of going through it myself in a disorganized manner.
I worry, What if I am really terrible at cueing? What if I can't remember any of it? What if I fall in love with cueing? Even, what if I don't and this means I've exhausted all the possible options for language out there? Will it be hard to teach people close to me cued speech?

Those things don't matter yet and I know that. But I'm REALLY hoping I won't be bad at cueing and it'll be relatively easy to learn, needless to say!

The downfall is that there are not many cuers in this area. Cueing is actually practically unheard of around here. I was surprised to find that my mom, who works with deaf people, hadn't heard of cued speech.

I look forward to coming back and discussing how the workshop went, if it helps my speech in the long run, and seeing if I end up using cued speech in the future for classes or even for daily interaction!!

In the meantime, here is more information on cued speech. I encourage you to leave comments & thoughts.

Cued Speech Association Information Page
Short 10 Minute Film (With sign language interpretation, captions, and spoken English)

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