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Deaf people can lipread can’t they?
Yes and no. This is a huge area that deserves a book in itself, but is such a common assumption that it needs some response. The use of lip-reading as a totally adequate and reliable substitute for hearing speech is very rare indeed. To be able to pick up word patterns from the mouth requires that you are familiar with the words, phrases, figures of speech and so on, in the first place. For people who are hearing and become deaf after spoken language development, lip-reading can be an enormous help. Most people can lip-read to a certain extent and you only have to hear the complaints after televised football matches to learn which speech patterns are the easiest to lip-read. ‘F’, ‘W’ and ‘B’ provide lovely clear patterns, but ‘F’ also looks like ‘V’, ‘W’ like ‘QU’ and ‘B’ like both ‘M’ and ‘P’, (try mouthing ban, man and pan in the mirror) so that context and guesswork play a huge part. For people who are born deaf and who are not familiar with many spoken words, it is much much more limited, but with familiar words and in context is still useful.

Author: DeafSign.Com
Date Published @ DS: 25/10/2000 

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Approved by Schoolzone's team of independent education reviewers

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