Because Cued Speech is a syllable system, and because spoken syllables in American speech generally contain a vowel or diphthong, one should master the cueing of vowel positions and movements as quickly and efficiently as possible. In order to achieve proficiency in cueing vowel sounds certain sub-skills are essential:
Difficulties with one of these sub-skills -- perceptual, categorical, or motoric -- are bound to cause proficiency problems. You may need special help. This is why workshops and individual tutoring sessions are so important initially!
- One must be able to identify precisely which vowel phoneme is being uttered. Although utterance of correct vowel sounds is automatic for most native speakers, the perception of many vowel sounds for cueing purposes is not automatic at all. In many instances one must learn to "hear" certain vowels in syllables. Developing more acute perception is hard work for many cuers who have never had training in phonemic analysis, phonics, or phonetics.
- One must learn to categorize these perceived vowels in terms of arbitrary positions and hand movements. Knowing that the /ee/ sound belongs at the mouth and the /ah/ sound belongs at the side with a foreward movement requires more than speculative searching of one's memory. For this memory feat to become automatic as well as correct takes considerable practice. These categorizatio skills are easier for some people to acquire -- harder for others.
- The manual dexterity involved in getting the right cues to the right places at the right times requires the development of motor skills which are unique to Cued Speech. Not all would-be practitioners are blessed with the same degree of motokinesthetic sophistication.Some of us are "all thumbs"!
On the bright side, it should be noted that each of these sub-skills can help to support the others to some degree. The motor movements of cues can help one to perceive vowel phonemes, and a quick mind for categorization can aid in executing perceptual and motor tasks. Perceptual integrity makes categorization of vowels much easier. This section of the manual provides not only extensive practice with vowels and diphthongs but also addresses the sub-skills of perception, categorization, and manual dexterity. Those who feel that they are having problems with perception of vowels and diphthongs will find specific practice in units EF-E1, EF-E2, EF-F, EF-G, and EF-I. Others who still have categorization difficulties will find help in units EF-A, EF-B, EF-E1, EF-E2, EF-F, and EF-G. Motor/manual problems are a focus in units EF-A, EF-B, EF-C, EF-D, EF-E1, Ef-E2, EF-F, EF-G , and EF-H.
Conscientious study and regular practice of the units in PG-1 should result in a solid foundation for proficiency. If the cuer does not happen to have diagnostic information available from a Basic Cued Speech Proficiency Rating as a practice guide, he/she should work through all units systematically and then concentrate practice on those tasks which seem difficult to perform. Those with diagnostic information available should probably skip over those units which were not profiled as Error Factors. No one should waste time and effort on practice materials which are too easy. Put that time to better use by communicating with a hearing-impaired person!