“Do you still use Cued Speech?”

For the most part, I get this question in good faith and don’t mind answering.

Once in a while, however, I get the vibe that the asker is hunting for “weak points” in Cued Speech, especially when they see me using sign language to communicate. Needless to say, this makes me a bit uncomfortable since I don’t want my statements to be taken out of context.

On a pragmatic level, it’s like asking if I still use Mandarin. Most of the time I don’t, but if I visit China or a Chinatown, then yes, of course I’m going to use Mandarin– at least as best as I can, while utterly butchering the tones. Likewise, when I visit cueing friends, I’ll use Cued English with them. If I’m with deaf or signing friends, I’ll use sign language. The environment determines what I use. It’s as simple as that.

So rest assured, I’m not going to ever give up Cued Speech. English is my native language, and Cued Speech is my most accurate and reliable way of visually conveying that language in real time.

“Cued Speech is just a tool.”

And sometimes that’s followed up with “…not a communication method.”

Well, first off, I’m a native cuer. I can cue anything to another cuer, and he’ll understand everything I say, and vice versa. It doesn’t matter if we voice or not; all the phonetic components of English are right there on our lips and hands. That is communication! It’s complete language access.

If you want to get picky about it, everything is a tool– i.e., a way to accomplish a particular end. Even sign language is a tool. Spoken language is a tool. Written language is a tool. They’re all ways of communicating. Cued Speech is an exact representation of an existing language.

The nice thing about Cued Speech is that it can be used by itself, voiced or unvoiced, alongside sign language, as a speech therapy support, as reading/vocabulary support, with d/hh kids, with autistic or learning-disabled kids, with ESL speakers…

The key word there is “can.” Its use is ultimately up to whoever uses it. Really, the fact that Cued Speech is a tool is probably its greatest strength: it can fit into a variety of approaches without detracting from their central philosophies.