As a visual form of communication, lip reading relies on information that is processed and synthesized from three different elements. With lip reading supplying less than a third of the actual information, the other two elements - non-verbal cues and context - become even more critical to help inform and expand our understanding of a conversation.
Context creates the frame that helps us interpret incoming information. In lip reading, it becomes crucial to understand the context so that you can fill in the gaps making sense of the conversation. You can anticipate and define the other person’s meaning more easily if you know the backdrop or framework.
Non-verbal cues come in a symphony of messages that add the richness and emotion to conversation. These are some of the many forms of non-verbal communication
that add nuance to lip reading and help the reader to interpret meaning:
- Body language:
- Posture - is the person leaning forward in an intimate way (indicating trust and friendship) or sitting back with their arms crossed (indicating anger or apprehension)
- Facial expression – whether the person is happy, sad or angry is all communicated through the face
- Eyes - staring, blinking, and dilation are all ways that we interpret intent
- Mouth - is the person smiling or biting their lip indicating stress or worry
- Gestures – waving, pointing, giving a thumbs up – all ways of communicating through gesturing that adds clarity to lip reading
- Expression and tone – angry and agitated vs leaning inward to whisper are ways that tonal changes are communicated
By learning to lip read
, you are learning to understand speech through observing patterns in the lips, mouth, throat, and neck. Vowels, consonants, and words all have different patterns and movements. When learning to recognize these patterns, it’s much more effective to be face-to-face or use video courses. Still photography, like in books, can’t capture the movement that helps us identify the patterns of words.
Learning to lip read requires a great deal of concentration and focus. You will probably experience exhaustion after classes or practicing - go easy to start with.