Thursday, October 13, 2011

Talking Without Sound: Using Various SignIng Techniques From My Experience

Preface By Mike AKA the Professor
ASL Signing Courtesy of

Exploring and Learning the English Language in a Exciting New Way
This article deals with the comparison of Cued Speech and ASL from the viewpoint of Our  own Jacob Waring's experience as a practitioner of both forms. This is his analysis of them as a user detailing the pros and cons. Jacob is a valued Prowl member who will now tell us all about the Deaf Culture through his unique insight as a skilled writer and avid signer.
And now I turn you over to Mr. Jacob Waring!

I have had the delightful experience of using Cued Speech also known as cueing for the first fifteen years of my life. I have also learned and been signing with the American Sign Language (ASL) for the next five years after that. Now because of knowing how to and indeed actively using both of these two distinct ways of communicating with my hands I can write with a fair degree of first hand knowledge on this topic. Furthermore because of these experiences I have a unique and very comprehensive perspective on these two forms of communication.

To someone, who has not had the same experience that I have had, I can see how they could leap to the conclusion that Cued Speech and ASL are virtually the same. The fact of the matter, is that they could not be more wrong in coming to those assumptions. Why you may ask? Well quite honestly because even though the two forms of communication are similar they do have their very distinct differences! To quote One Mr Lewis Carroll's Character “Alice” here, let’s jump in, travel down the rabbit's hole and there we'll dissect these unique signing forms, in their similarities and obvious differences as a means of communication!

It has been my experience that the use of Cued Speech is not as well known as ASL. It then is greatly despised by some in the Deaf community based on their notion that it aids only in speaking the English language. The Cued Speech teaching method is designed to be of use for most deaf children to speak in English well. The notion is indeed correct as Cued Speech is NOT a true Language but rather a form of communication that aids the person in understanding and speaking with others in the English Language.

Now regardless of the fact that it does not have its own grammatical structure, Cued Speech still has a complex system that is rather difficult to explain. This is especially true when you are trying to educate someone who is unfamiliar with it and the fundamentals on what Cued Speech really is. However I will go over some of the basics for my readers benefit here. Please remember that I am not an accredited teacher or trainer nor do I profess to be one. That being stated I shall begin.

Cued Speech has only eight hand shapes and also only has four placements on the face for those hand shapes. Now here’s the complex part of Cued Speech: You must combine these hand shapes to the movement of speech to make the sounds of spoken Language look different from each other. So in other words you just need enough information on the hand shapes to execute the different form words from the spoken Language.

In layman terms that basically are using hand shapes to as a guide for lip reading. Now ASL is a bona fide Language as it does have its own grammatical structure and rules that classifies ASL as a sophisticated form of Language. ASL has roughly over forty or more hand shapes that Cued Speech uses. Now I truthfully do not know how many ASL signs there are all together and I would be foolish to try to find an estimate as it would be like asking you how many insects there are all together in the world, but I can assure you that there are well over fifteen thousand signs in ASL.

Now in to explain the concept of hand-shapes, placement, movement and orientation, I will be using the mother and father signs. Both signs have the hand shape of the hand held face up to the side with the fingers spread out like your describing the number five and that’s the hand shape. The placement of the father sign is with the thumb being placed on the middle of the forehead while the mother sign is similar only that the thumb is placed on the chin.

The movement is crucial as when you sign either of the signs they must be stationary on the chin / forehead area. If you move the signs forward then you’ll be signing grandmother / grandfather instead of mother/father. The orientation part is simply making sure the sign is place right or moved right as it could then the individual could potentially be signing a sign that was not his/her intention to sign in the first place. Even though Cued Speech and ASL have great differences they also have intriguing similarities.

The Deaf individuals who use either forms of communication seem to greatly appreciate their own form of communicating. Interestingly enough through my experiences Deaf individuals, those who use Cued Speech have minimal to great disdain towards ASL and vice versa! Interpreters are provided for ASL and Cued Speech for the genetic classroom and international events settings. There are classes to learn both forms of communications but obviously ASL is the more widespread in that area.

Also both styles of communication are ingrained into Deaf culture more greatly than any other type of signing. Granted ASL has virtually been around since the seeds where planted by Gallaudet and Clerc when they founded the American School for the Deaf, which is of course taught in their ASL. Cued Speech has been around since the 1970’s its popularity has blossom to epic proportions.

I always found amusement when I see the bewildered expressions of my fellow Deaf ASL signing peers when I tell them that they have a summer camp up in Maine for Cued Speech! ASL and Cued Speech are both fascinating ways to communicate through using our hands regardless of the stark differences both have in our eyes.

Despite the many differences between the two both forms of communications fulfills the needs of the Deaf individuals that uses them. Hard to imagine but ASL is not the right avenue for some people to fill their communication needs and Cued Speech fills that communication gap for people. The same can also be said about Cued Speech as well.

The bottom line is that both systems of communication are phenomenal with all their differences and similarities that creates for each form, a very distinctive personality! By The Way here are a few YouTube Videos to give you a visual experience of these two language types.
Thanks for reading!
Copyright September 12, 2010
revised October 12th 2011 
Written By Jacob Waring 

All rights reserved!
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