"What Is the Hardest Language in the World to Lipread?" Discussion Thread

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Main takeaway - it’s speech reading or something … not lip-reading. So much more goes on with cheeks, throat, etc. (And of course context, facial expression, gestures.) Consider the example of ball/bull given in the article. Say them yourself. Note that they are not the same at all; note rather that your lips stay closer together when you finish saying bull, and also that your cheeks puff while you say bull.

Sign language.

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I feel like if you don’t speak the language then that language is the hardest because if you don’t understand it as sound chances are you won’t understand it by reading lips.

Well, I am going to say ‘Southern’! Ok, just kidding! When I moved to Alabama, I talked to a man named Bubba who jokingly told me he cancelled his AAA membership, because they didn’t understand him saying his car was a ‘Ford’, which had four syllables!!

I am wondering how the interviewer had a conversation with Ms. González if she does not use ASL? Does Ms. González use oral speech to communicate?

“Most developed countries have experienced a push to move away from oralism and toward sign language; there are now dozens of different sign languages around the world.”

Interesting article, but the above statement implies that these sign languages are new, which they are not. There have always been numerous sign languages, more than dozens, predating the move away from oralism and towards sign language.

As someone who was born profoundly hearing impaired, I was brought up as an oralist. My parents did not want me to be confined to a deaf community so they got me to learn to speak. Along with learning to speak, I also was a natural lipreader. I relied solely on lipreading all my life to understand what people were saying. I wore hearing aids, but they weren’t the best. English is a very complex language with many words that look the same ( write and right for example), so I would be lucky to understand 3-4 words out of a sentence. I had to rely on watching the whole face, even in profile and body language as well. People with poker faces, heavy facial hair were notoriously difficult to understand. I found many Asians barely move their lips, so it was a challenge to understand my friends when tbeir faces were so immobile. Lip reading is tough, and throw in different languages, amps up the difficulty factor. Now with cochlear implants I have a better time understanding people but I still rely on lipreading - I’ve spent my entire life reading lips. Not prefect but better than nothing, esp. when you are deaf.

I would like to know if there are any schools to learn how to lipread. I agree with one of the posters above, it’s really face-and-body read, not lipread. I will be grateful for any replies.

“There is a profound connection between the auditory and visual senses when understanding speech, though this connection is just barely understood. But there are all sorts of weird studies showing just how connected vision is to speech perception.”
This sentence struck a cord with me. I am not hearing impaired but I have a friend who has about 50% hearing loss. Both of us have worn glasses since grade school and both of us put our glasses on to answer the phone, even in the middle of the night. We both feel the glasses help us ‘hear’ better. Weird and why.

I can’t believe no one has mentioned one of the greatest movie scenes about lip-reading. It marks the turning point in the whole relationship between “Hal” and Dave (and Frank.) 2001: A Space Odyssey

I work as a forensic lipreader and have been deaf all my life, I rely on lipreading which is the best way to improve this skill. I have a degree in Japanese, which isn’t that hard to lipread. I can lipread Arabic as well. But here’s the key thing. You can only lipread what you know. So if you don’t have the lexicon of a language then you’ll struggle. Context is another key thing, it’s so important to help clue into the topic. Finally, the skill of a lipreader varies a lot, some people are naturally better than others, like an artist is naturally better with a brush and paints.

How would people who are born profoundly deaf learn to understand and speak a language, and would they be better able to lip read, or sign read, than people whose deafness arose later in life?

If you are born profoundly hearing impaired ( which I was), early training adn speech therapy is critical. I had intensive speech therapy growing up, wore hearing aids. The earlier you learn to speak, the better, Once you are 5 and older, your vocal cords are set and you won’t be able to speak as well. As for people who became deaf later in life, they have to figure out how to lipread and probably fitted for hearing aids or cochlear implants. Cochlear implants have greatly helped many deaf people for they can hear more realistically than hearing aids. They are not perfect but better than nothing. Some people never really learn to lipread and others do so, because you have to. It’s how I understand.