Welcome to The Hear Me Out! [CC] Podcast, an audio show (with transcripts included) where we listen to stories from fascinating individuals in and around the d/Deaf community and from your host, yours truly, Ahmed Khalifa.
In this episode, I answer the question on what is the easiest language to lipread?
This is yet another question that I’ve seen crop up on Google and Quora.
Even though the easy answer is whatever is your main spoken language, the other answer is the dreaded “it depends”.
Because it’s all well and good trying to get a linguistic to understand which language is the easiest and hardest to lip-read; but it’s all irrelevant because it never allows you to completely comprehend what the person is saying. There are too many factors to take into considerations, not to mention the basic tips on how to communicate with deaf people.
You can listen to the podcast below or scroll down to read the transcript:
- A brilliant YouTube video on what it’s like to lipread
- What is Concentration Fatigue?
- How to Communicate with Deaf People?
Announcer: This is the Hear Me Out! [CC] podcast, a place to hear stories from the deaf and hard of hearing people and from your host, Ahmed Khalifa.
Ahmed: What is the easiest language to lip read? This is yet another question that I’ve seen crop up on Google and on Quora, the question and answers platform.
And for me, the easy answer would be whatever is your main language or whatever is your first spoken language obviously. And that’s coming from me, that’s coming from my own non-professional perspective.
It’s more to do with my life experience rather than having a linguistic background. Because here’s the thing, the answer is which language is the easiest to lip read? It’s the dreaded, “it depends”.
And I know nobody likes to hear that, but it does depend just not that straight forward. If we had a proper linguistic expert, they are probably going to be the best person to answer that, because there are arguments about certain languages around the world that has specific tones and vowels and consonants and all these little things that we don’t really think about when we communicate with our language.
And there are hundreds of languages all over, so there’s no way I or many of us will be able to answer that, because we’re not going to know the majority of the other language exists in the world.
So having a linguistic expert would be able to maybe give us an understanding about do you need more vowels or left vowels? More consonants or less consonants? Is it to do with the tone? Is it to do with anything else around that?
I just don’t know. I’m not a linguistic person. And then there’s an argument about whether it’s even possible to read lips, without hearing the associated sounds around it.
And I agree with that, because when people say to me, if I can lip read a person from a distance or if I’m across the room, I don’t understand that. They can’t really possibly think that I can find out what that person is saying from across the room just by reading the lips.
Because there are so many things that you have to take into account when it comes to lip reading. And this has had nothing to do with whether the language is easy or not.
And even for me, if it’s going to be in English and I’m going to try to lip read the person English across the room, doesn’t matter, it doesn’t really make any difference whether it’s another language or English. It’s going to be near enough impossible.
Because there are too many things to take into account and the big thing you have to consider is that you still need to know the context and the topic and the subject matter of that conversation, and then your brain will kind of gradually fill in the gaps of what you can and can’t hear.
And then there are even certain nuances and certain things that you have to think about like body language so that you can get the tone and get the mood of a conversation.
Is it a debate? Is it an angry one? Is it happy? Is it a joke? Is it a casual conversation?
These are the things that you can only get when you look at the body language and you’re close enough to hear the tone of that voice. But to be able to do that across the room, it’s impossible.
And even if it’s in the same language as you are, speaking and your main language, it doesn’t matter. It’s just impossible.
So there are arguments about whether without the associated sounds that comes with speaking orally and not doing the subject matter and not knowing the tone of the voice and the body language, whether it is even possible to be able to lip read perfectly in terms of whether you can pick up the conversation, the language, all these things I’m talking about.
Because that’s the thing, it doesn’t matter if you are lip reading the easiest or the hardest language in the world.
These are important things that you need to think about.
And they’re also on top of that some basic advice when it comes to communicating with deaf people and how to communicate with deaf people.
And I’m talking about things like being in situations where they have good lighting so you can lip read, you don’t mumble, you don’t shout, less background noise and even get this, less beards around your lips, so you can see your lips.
These are the little things that you have to think about when it comes to communicating with deaf people.
And I’ll put a link in the show notes so you can read more about it. Because I have made the list of things that you need to think about.
You don’t have to be a sign language expert, you don’t have to know any sign language if you want to communicate with deaf people.
There are things that you can consider, link is in the show notes.
And while you are there, I will also recommend to check out this brilliant video on YouTube.
And it’s called “What It’s Like To Lip Read” and it’s created by a bunch of people who are expert in the topic of deafness and lip reading, all these things. But it’s also been created under the umbrella brand of the National Geographic.
And it’s such a good video. It gives you a really good perspective on the deaf person’s perspective, on what it’s like to read lips.
Because you might have everything set up correctly, but just by watching that video as a hearing person, you’ll realise that lip reading does not solve the situation.
And that doesn’t matter whether it’s an easy language or not, or is it a foreign language to you or not.
Lip reading doesn’t solve the situation of the topic of conversation. It just shows that on top of many things about things to take into account, it shows that regardless of the language that you’re speaking, it’s not a solution.
Lip reading is not a solution.
And even though for me, the easiest language to lip read will be naturally, English. But when I watch that video, it really resonated with me.
Because it does give you a really good demonstration on what it’s like to be able to attempt to lip read, the headache that comes with it, the strain in your brain and the mental energy that it requires.
It’s a lot.
And eventually when you try to do it so many times or for a long period of time and then you get exhausted, you get concentration fatigue, it just becomes very, very difficult.
And it’s very amusing when I see in the news about the alleged thing that that person said and by lip reading you will work out what that person said.
And again, that’s not possible. You can’t just assume what that person said just on lip reading.
Because it’s so difficult to do that under so many words and phrases out there that you will not know what is said, or you might be confused or you might be mistaken completely on what that person said, if you just focused on lip reading.
One example, and I’m going to obviously use English in this situation, one example is when you compare a person saying, “elephant shoes” and “I love you”.
They are quite similar. Maybe for some people, very similar if you don’t hear it, but you just look at the lips moving.
Now of course, who will ever say, ‘elephant shoes’? apart from now obviously, when I’m saying it in this situation, and whether ‘elephant shoe’s exist or not is another story. I don’t think they do, but maybe I’m wrong. Tell me if I’m wrong.
But just an example of two phrases that are completely the opposite end of the spectrum and it doesn’t matter whether it’s in English or not, because easy for me.
But if I see someone and that person is wanting for some reason, want to say, elephant shoes, I might be able to figure it out and say, oh, why is that person saying I love you? Or why that person saying… Is that person saying I love you? Or is that person saying another thing? Or does that person saying elephant shoes? I don’t know.
The point is, at the end of the day, lip reading does not result in complete comprehension.
I’ve read somewhere that only about 35% of actual speech is visible on the lips and I’m assuming it’s in English. I don’t know, because again, I’m just using my own experience.
Maybe a linguistic expert would be able to tell me more information. If you are that person, let me know. I’d love to hear from you, but it does not result in complete comprehension, regardless of the language.
So you can have the easiest language in the world. It doesn’t matter. It requires context. It requires the subject matter, the body language, the tone of the voice.
They are all part of the whole experience of lip reading, and they are all part of the whole situation where your brain with all those little signals will be able to fill the gaps a bit better, not 100%, but a bit better.
But then obviously, if that person is speaking and yawning or coughing and laughing at the same time while talking, well you can kiss lip reading goodbye, and it doesn’t matter what language you’re speaking, it’s just not going to work.
So that’s it really. It kind of a weird one to answer because there is no straight answer. I’m just using my own personal experience of saying, whatever is your main first spoken language, in a few minutes that you’d be able to pick up a certain sound, one certain word they said, then you may be able to connect the two dots together. But at the same time it’s a lot more complicated than that. It’s not just about this is the language, you lip read, off you go, have a nice day. No, it’s not like that. It’s quite complicated.
But as I’ve said, I would love to hear from linguistic experts or anybody else who have experience in multi-lingual expertise and maybe they know of various languages and they also depend on lip reading, and even if you are hearing, just so you can understand what that person is saying and you’re concentrating extra hard, maybe you have the experience at that.
Let me know, my contact details is in the show notes and I hope you’ve learned something from this episode. But just before you go, I really, really appreciate it.
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In the meantime, I will speak to you again soon.
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