Mirabai Knight is a fairly new cuer, having started in June of 2013 and I couldn’t be prouder of her progress! In this video, she’s cueing “Can’t Take That Away From Me”, by the one and only Billie Holiday. It is a song of determination, for it is a proclamation that even as lovers part, their love cannot be taken away from them.
That’s a bit how I feel seeing new cuers hit their stride and really display an understanding and implicit awareness of Cued Speech technique. At just over half a year of cueing, Mirabai is able to convey with very little ambiguity just about anything that verbal language can throw at her. Her speed is still a work in progress but I will always emphasize accuracy over speed because the point of Cued Speech, as we say so many times, is to provide a perfect phonemic model of language to a deaf or hard of hearing person. Mirabai’s accuracy is very close and I would like to take this opportunity to gently remind new cuers to practice transitions as much as possible.
During Cued Speech classes, we often do the one-two, one-three, one-four, etc. exercise and it seems monotonous but it is hugely helpful for the process of learning to Cue. It ultimately becomes something you’ll want to practice absentmindednly while cooking, while driving, while microwaving a hotpocket, or brushing your teeth.
I find it very interesting that Mirabai is a professional stenographer who has opted to learn to cue and now knows multiple manual coding systems for converting verbal language into a visual mode. When asked about the parallels between stenography and Cued Speech, she stated that, “the idea that (she) would cue the same word differently depending on how it was pronounced is so alien to (her) steno mind,” and that, “Cued Speech is instant, unfettered access (with) no equipment to set up or lug around!” Our conversation also trended towards late-deafened individuals because when you have someone who’s so used to using verbal language and they suddenly (or gradually) cannot, it’s a huge shift.
One of our main points when we talk about Cued Speech is how it grants access to communication for individuals who already have verbal language, such as English, as their first language. Parents of a deaf child or late deafened adults are perfect examples of these folks.
Watching this song for the fifth or sixth time, I’m now struck by the parallel between the song choice and what late-deafened individuals experience. Someone who has spent their entire life communicating via a conventionally “heard” mode of communication will never forget how to use language phonemically. Rather than learning a new language in order to communicate visually, they can simply convey that memory of how they communicated into a visual format so that phonemic awareness can “Never Be Taken Away From (Them)”
Keep it up, Mirabai!