What Words Are Hard To Lipread? (Helpful Examples) | Iris Reading
What Words Are Hard To Lipread

What Words Are Hard To Lipread? (Helpful Examples)

What Words Are Hard To Lipread

Lipreading can be difficult for even the most experienced lip reader, as it tends to lead to misinterpretation of many words, including those that others speak rapidly or words with multiple meanings. 

Lip reading, also known as speechreading or visual phonics, is the ability to interpret the movements of the lips, face, and tongue to understand spoken language. 

A few words, in particular, are notoriously hard to lipread, including common words that people use daily.

In this article, we will discuss lipreading and determine what words are difficult to lipread. Also, we will provide some tips and techniques that you can use to learn lipreading in time.

Let’s start.

What is lip reading?

Lip reading is a technique used to help people with hearing problems understand what others say. It involves watching the movement of a person’s lips and facial expressions to understand words.

Also known as “speech reading,” people resort to lip reading when regular sound is unavailable. They visually analyze the lips, face, and tongue motions to gain context and information.

Lip reading is essential because it helps people with hearing problems communicate with others. Hearing loss can make it difficult for people to enjoy social interactions because they feel left out when their family and friends talk among themselves.

These feelings lead to frustration, depression, and reluctance to attend events outside the home. They can experience difficulty communicating with others, particularly if they’re trying their best but don’t quite understand what’s happening around them.

Although not 100% accurate, lip reading can help people understand a conversation better.

How can you learn to lipread?

You can learn lipreading by taking a class, watching videos, and practicing independently. You can also avail any online lip reading course, or even better, hire a tutor to help you.

There are people born with the ability to lip-read, while others, on the other hand, have to learn it. It is a skill that takes time and practice to develop. 

You can also apply the following tips when speaking with people:

  • Never forget to ask individuals to talk clearly and to look at you.
  • Ask them to speak slowly and clearly while maintaining their natural pace and intonation without covering their lips.
  • Find a quiet area if possible so you can lipread more easily. Soft furniture, carpets, and drapes all help to muffle sounds.
  • Ensure that the room has good lighting and illuminates the person’s face so you can see the movement of their lips.
  • Be as close to the speaker as you can while maintaining the same height.
  • Ask them to clarify, repeat, or write it down if you still do not understand. Always have paper and a pen with you, or use a little, foldable writing tablet.

In addition, you can also apply the following techniques:

Gain an idea of what the topic is 

Knowing the subject beforehand facilitates lipreading homophenes or words that seem similar. 

Context facilitates lipreading because it makes words more manageable and more accurate to predict and interpret.

Practice lipreading constantly 

Just like any other skill, lipreading takes practice to perfect. So if you need to hone this skill, make sure to take a lipreading class and also practice individually at home. Start by identifying common words and phrases.

Examine the forms and motions of the lips upon saying different words

One must pay attention to the entire sound production process to lipread a sound. 

The visual sound form will appear after a movement when practicing lipreading with a book. But since many forms resemble one another by the time the lip movement or pattern is complete, you must follow it to understand how the mouth creates the designated shape.

Think about the words that can come next

There are words that usually go together, like how “am” follows “I,” or like how “is” or “was” follows “it.” By thinking about the words that come next, you can lipread faster, and the context you gain from lipreading will make more sense. 

Since we have been using language for so long, this step should be easy as we can easily anticipate the words and phrases that can come next to specific terms in conversations.

Try to guess the words you have not lipread well if they don’t make sense 

Remember, you’re still in the learning process, so taking this step is natural. 

For instance, if you’re conversing with someone about movies and you’ve lipread “coy story 2,” you would know that the film is entitled “toy story 2.” Hence, you substitute the word “coy” with “toy,” so the information is now complete. 

Look at the person’s body language 

Gestures, facial expressions, and body language convey feelings. 

At first, it appears complex to understand because all you focus on is the mouth and the face, but soon, you can hone your abilities and seek cues based on how a person moves and how they appear overall. 

Facial expressions aside, the most common gestures that indicate cues are the following:

  1. Yawning indicates sleepiness.
  2. Stretching shows boredom. It may also refer to the willingness to stay awake.
  3. Fidgeting and avoiding eye contact can mean nervousness or anxiety.
  4. Trembling lips may exhibit unhappiness or a person on the verge of crying.
  5. Head tilting could mean thinking or evaluating something.

What words are the most difficult to lipread?

Certain words are more challenging to lipread than others because these words look very similar when you watch the other person saying them. 

For example, the letters “b” and “p” look very similar when said.

Many words appear the same when lipread, mainly if they contain sounds challenging to see on a person’s lips (such as the letter ‘m’).

The following list contains some of the most common words that are hard to lip-read, including their categories:

Words that have the same letter groups

  • Could, would, should
  • Pig, big
  • Dad, lad, mad
  • Mass, pass
  • Calm, palm
  • Male, kale
  • Feast, beast
  • Best, pest
  • Fashion, mansion
  • Crust, rust

Homophones, or words that sound  the same despite having different meanings

  • Days, daze
  • There, their
  • Sell, cell
  • Here, hear
  • Bough, bow
  • To, two, too
  • Steal, steel
  • Bored, bored
  • Carat, carrot, caret
  • Four, fore, for

Words that end in different letter groups with the same mouth formation

  • Castle, hassle
  • Bustle, muscle
  • Rumble, rumple
  • Glass, last
  • Tear, hair
  • Roar, gore
  • Moss, gauze
  • Thanks, text
  • Message, meshes
  • Fashion, ration

Long words that take a while to lipread and understand, or words with three syllables and up

  • Vegetation
  • Primarily
  • Technicality
  • Definition
  • Comprehensible
  • Eradication
  • Stationary
  • Fundamental
  • Television
  • Detachment

Words that contain the following letter groups

  • B and P – When followed by the same letter groups, these two letters are hard to distinguish from each other when lipreading.
  • M, N, and NG – These letters all look very similar when someone says them.
  • W and R – These letters have the same mouth formation.
  • TH and T – These two letters can be tricky to differentiate.
  • CH and J – These two letters can also be challenging to tell apart when watching mouth movements alone.

Remember, asking the person to clarify or repeat what they said can be helpful if you are having trouble lipreading a word. 

You can also try to guess the word based on the context of the conversation. With practice, you will get better in time.

What languages are the hardest to lipread?

Every language has words that are difficult to lipread. However, some languages are more complicated to lipread than others. 

Among other factors, a language becomes hard to read when some sounds are difficult to see on a person’s lips. These languages include:

  • Indian. Lip-readers would encounter difficulties with anything that covers the lips, such as mustaches in India that hangs over the top lip. In India, people inextricably link mustaches with manliness, which explains why this physical trait is within their culture.
  • Mandarin. A lip-reader won’t be able to determine tone from the way a Mandarin speaker’s lips are moving since Mandarin is a highly tonal language that contains four styles and a fifth neutral tone. It draws its distinctiveness from the sounds generated deep in the throat.
  • Welsh. The larynx produces guttural sounds when speaking in Welsh, which makes it challenging for lipreaders to distinguish words.
  • Dutch. Just like the Welsh, speaking in Dutch involves the larynx.
  • Japanese. In Japan, the people’s body language makes it difficult to read lips, not the sound. They prefer to conceal their mouths when laughing, making it difficult for a lip reader to determine tone or mood.

Wrapping Up

Lip reading isn’t easy. It’s one of the most intricate skills to learn and develop. Many words are hard to lipread because they contain sounds challenging to comprehend and interpret.

Additionally, every language has words that are difficult to lipread. But with sufficient time, effort, and practice, you can learn lip reading gradually.

Lip reading is crucial because it allows deaf or hard-of-hearing people to communicate with others. These individuals can improve their communication skills and quality of life by learning how to lipread.

Learn more skills and take various reading courses with Iris Reading today.

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