PG-5
DEVELOPING FLUENT CUED SPEECH

Because cueing movements must be synchronized with articulate speech, it follows that the fluency of an oral utterance is going to be determined by one's current cueing skills. There are those who believe that Cued Speech is most effective with severely hearing-impaired children when the speaker functions at the rate of formal, deliberate discourse. Such a rate in measured syllables-per-second is slower than the rate generally used in informal communication. Perhaps the most common example of the rate of deliberate discourse is the slower speed one usually uses when reading aloud to a pre-school child.

However, in real life, day-to-day conversations , the rate at which one speaks varies considerably with the content of what is being said -- as well as the situation in which one communicates orally. For example, we speak very slowly when giving complex directions or dire warnings, or when introducing unfamiliar subject matter. Speech becomes very rapid when we are relaying familiar messages or telling a story. The cuer who hopes to become an interpreter/transliterator of other speakers who do not cue will have to match the speed of the speaker, which may well exceed the rate normally preferred by the cuer when talking. So, obviously, there is an advantage to being able to cue faster than one habitually speaks.

New cuers who interact regularly with hearing-impaired children soon find that fluency is first achieved with very common expressions which are repeated many times a day. These same cuers may be less fluent when introducing unfamiliar words or phrases and when attempting a continuous narrative of many sentences. In one respect we should demand of our cueing skills what we demand of our autos: we plan to drive them within legal speed limits -- but we expect more speed to be available for emergency situations. Getting to the point where we can cue as rapidly as we choose to speak takes considerable practice. Materials in this section will both challenge one to cue faster and will also prvide a means of measuring current syllables-per-minute.

Fluency is not just a matter of speed. Fluency means linking words together in meaningful units (phrases) of thought; it means pausing when pauses contribute to meaning -- and not pausing when hesitations interfere with meaning. Working toward good phrasing habits may ultimately help you to become more fluent than trying to set new speed records! Don't skip over the practice materials in EF-B.

The amount of syllable stress and duration varies tremendously in a spoken English phrase or sentence. This variable stress is one of the hallmarks of oral English, which makes it different from other languages (such as French or Spanish). The novice cuer has an irresistable urge to cue-and-say every syllable with equal stress and duration. Sometimes it is a real struggle to break away from such a pattern even when one becomes more confident of skills. Speech remains stilted and labored -- less than an ideal model of what oral language should be. It is true that many non-cueing professionals who work with the Deaf fall into the same trap of using very stilted oral language: one - word - at - a - time, one - syl - la - ble - at - a - time (with pauses in between utterances). The author of this manual suspects that what has been labled "Deaf speech" is really the invention -- not of the Deaf -- but of some hearing teachers and clinicians who unwittingly provide such dreadful models. He remembers vividly an eight-year-old boy (mis-diagnosed as having lost his hearing in a sledding accident) who spent two years in a state school for the Deaf and came away from the experience with "perfect" Deaf-speech patterns. His peers at the school signed to each other, so they weren't the models for the child. The models for "Deaf speech" were his hearing classroom teachers! Please do not condemn the teachers who thought they were instructing a Deaf child. There may be some justification for speaking to severely hearing-impaired children one syllable at a time where Cued Speech is NOT used. But there is no justification for such a crippled oral model when Cued Speech is available. Remember that Cued Speech as a system is capable of adjusting to our natural speech rhythms. If we alter our natural speech rhythms to fit our present cueing skills, then we have a responsibility to up-grade our cueing skills as quickly as we can.


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