Cueing Expressively as a Receptive Cuer

One thing about being the only cuer in the entire state: you get really, really good at cuereading. If you have only a few transliterators (or only one!), sometimes you get really, really good at reading their particular style of cueing. When I reconnect with other cuers in Illinois and Colorado, it takes me a while to adjust myself to reading their cues– partly because I see them only once, maybe twice a year. I don’t have that issue with my transliterators in Wisconsin.

Conversely, the transliterator gets used to your voice so you find that you don’t need to cue as much with them, or you don’t need to cue as accurately with them. As a matter of fact, I know many cuers who just voice for themselves without any cues whatsoever. I don’t know the ratio of cuers who cue expressively versus those who don’t, but I’ve seen more in the latter category. My guess is that for the majority of d/hh cuers, it’s just easier to drop the hands and talk.

The downside is that, well, these cuers don’t get to practice expressive cueing a lot, so either they can’t do it, or they do it sloppily. I was/am in the latter category, although I have been much more mindful of it over the past few years. By cueing sloppily, I mean we drop certain handshapes, or don’t put our hands in the right position (e.g., placing the hand on the cheek instead of at the corner of the mouth for “ee” and “ur” sounds). It usually doesn’t impact our overall comprehension, I think, but it’s not technically the correct way to cue.

I do suspect that part of it is probably just cuers co-opting the system to their own style, like how native signers or native speakers become a bit sloppier in everyday conversation. Part of it is due to cuers not getting enough exposure to correct cueing, and/or not being around other cuers. I imagine as cueing becomes more mainstream, and hopefully as we establish a stronger base of cued speech transliterators, we’ll have more good models to work off of. For now, this is a good issue to be aware of, especially with young d/hh cuers.