Cued Speech: Guide

Cate Calder | View as single page | Feedback/Impact

Literacy and accessing the language of education.


Hearing children acquire their understanding of language through listening to the speech of others – which is made up of sounds. 

Deaf children brought up with CS acquire their understanding of language through watching the cued speech of others – which is made up of the sound-based cues. 

Deaf children brought up with CS and hearing children can both bring the same skills to learning to read.

'It is not surprising therefore that research shows that children brought up with Cued Speech have reading levels which equal that of hearing children and that they learn to read using the same phonetic techniques.'

There are two things that are very important – probably essential - when learning to read. 

  • An understanding of the language you are trying to read 
  • An understanding of the sounds that make up that language and a knowledge of how the sounds tie in with letters – which is known as phonics

This is a prescription for Cued Speech.

Deaf children who are taught to read through BSL must move between two different languages with very different grammar; a much more difficult task.  Connie Mayer and Gordon Wells describe how very hard it is for deaf children to become fully literate through sign language in their paper ‘Can the Linguistic Interdependence Theory Support A Bilingual-Bicultural Model of Literacy Education for Deaf Students?’.  They write: ‘... proponents of bilingual-bicultural models of literacy education for deaf students claim that, if ASL is well established as the language 1 (LI), then literacy in English, language 2 (L2), can be achieved by means of reading and writing without exposure to English through either speech or English-based sign.  In our opinion, this claim is based on a false analogy....’ 

This document outlines the skills needed for good literacy and how CS can enable those skills to be developed in deaf children, supporting research is quoted.

This newsletter article describes some of the results of using CS in a specialist school for the deaf with signing students. 

This document explains what CS is, the skills required for literacy and the synthetic phonics resources from THRASS (Teaching Handwriting Reading and Spelling Skills) which has CS fully integrated into its English Phonics Chart and software program The Phoneme Machine.


To ‘transliterate’ means to represent a language – eg English, in a different ‘mode’ eg visually, through cueing it, rather than orally through speaking it.  This is different from ‘interpreting’ which is representing a first language in a second separate language.

Cued Speech Transliterators (CST) are people with a high level of fluency in Cued Speech who are trained to give equal access to English (or another spoken language) for a deaf child or adult.  They will silently repeat, with cues, the spoken message of the people around the deaf person.  Their role is to make sure that all the auditory information (including environmental sounds such as phones ringing) that a hearing person would be receiving, is made visually accessible to the deaf person through Cued Speech.

This can be done verbatim and at a speed to match the speaker’s style and pace or it can be adapted to match the receptive skills of the deaf person as appropriate, for example, some may require a slower delivery or only certain words clarified visually.

Educational professionals, such as learning support assistants, can often add transliterating skills to their role. The role of Transliterator has a formal training and qualification process in countries such as America, France and Switzerland, this is currently still in development in the UK.

The Transliterator should comply with a professional code of practise in the same way that other communication professionals do such as spoken or sign language interpreters.

Full access to English is vital for young deaf children learning language, and Cued Speech will give that access in nurseries, pre-schools and schools – including to the nonsense words and rhymes of stories and songs loved by very young children.

Using a CST can be equally important at the other end of the learning spectrum as shown by an assignment to support a student at a university open day in a physics department.  The CST could represent the physics jargon and concepts (without understanding them herself) without difficulty, and could support the student as the group walked around the university site.  The student had full access at all times.  No other support could have provided this.

This document explains the skills and role of professional Cued Speech Transliterators.

Anne Worsfold, Executive Director, Cued Speech Association UK describes some of the many advantages to accessing education through a Cued Speech Transliterator in an article published in the BATOD Magazine January 2006.
A father talks about using cueing at home and how his daughter has benefited from cueing support at school in France and the experience of trying to get the same support in England.