Lip-reading: Watch this space

Misbehaving footballers have made lip-readers of us all lately, but there's still nothing like a professional

Read my lips, said the former US president. Long after George Bush Snr left the world stage, we are taking his words to heart. With an army of fans wanting to know precisely what was said by John Terry, who is alleged to have racially abused QPR's Anton Ferdinand on the pitch, everyone's a lip-reader. The England captain denies the claims. But, increasingly, we are turning to professionals who can tell what is being said without hearing a word.

From furnishing media outlets with titbits from private conversations at the royal wedding to interpreting what footballer Carlos Tevez told Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini during the club's Champions League match with Bayern Munich, forensic lip-readers are being called upon to help interpret public events. Tina Lannin, a lip-reader for O'Malley Communications, who was born deaf and relies on lip-reading for communication, is among the experts to benefit from this rise in demand: she now receives inquiries every week for her services, with calls coming in from across the globe. She says the increase in work is down to technological advances, such as better CCTV, more cameras and a high level of publicity given to the skill recently.

For many of the estimated nine million people in the UK who are deaf or hard of hearing – equivalent to one in seven people – lip-reading is a vital communication skill. Lip-readers are able to understand what people are saying by interpreting movements of the face, jaw and tongue and shapes made by the lips, as well as taking into account factors such as body language and context.

However, only 30 to 40 per cent of speech is actually "lip-readable", according to Ms Lannin, as many shapes are made inside the mouth or throat and it is possible different lip-readers will pick up different meanings. It is therefore best practice to have more than one lip-reader working on a clip.

"Lip-reading for a court requires meticulous record-keeping, from the moment an inquiry is received, with a lengthy and detailed written report submitted to the court, supported by cross-examination from the opposing side," explains Ms Lannin, a qualified teacher of lip-reading to adults and a deaf-awareness trainer who has been working as a forensic lip-reader for eight years. She can lip-read English, Japanese, German, Spanish and Arabic. "Lip-reading for the media requires a fast turnaround and willingness to lip-read colourful language. Lip-reading socially often involves 'live' lip-reading and reporting at an event, or lip-reading a video recording of an event."

Such expertise comes at a price: forensic lip-readers charge in the region of between £40 and more than £100 for an hour, or about £600 for a full day covering something such as a sporting event or the royal wedding.

Yet, despite the growing exposure of lip-reading as a commercial skill, the provision of lip-reading classes is falling. According to the national charity Action on Hearing Loss, which launched the Read My Lips campaign urging the Government to recognise lip-reading as a valuable skill, the number of classes in England fell by 8 per cent this year compared with 2010. There was also a 10 per cent decrease in learners. In June last year, there were 451 classes in England and Wales, with an estimated 4,739 learners. A separate report suggested there were 63 lip-reading classes in Scotland, with an average of 11 people per class.

Action on Hearing Loss claims one in five lip-reading classes in England and Wales is under threat in the next 12 months, with the cost of classes predicted to rise to £240 a year.

Increased fees, prompted by a lack of funding, are being blamed for the decline. Since 2005, the Skills Funding Agency (then the Learning and Skills Council), has classified lip-reading as a leisure activity. In May this year, Ian Lavery, the Labour MP for Wansbeck, introduced a Private Member's Bill requiring lip-reading "to be classed as an essential skill for the purpose of skills funding". The Bill is due to have its second reading in the House of Commons next month.

Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.
peopleThe idea has been greeted enthusiastically by the party's MPs
Michael Buerk in the I'm A Celebrity jungle 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Avatar grossed $2.8bn at the box office after its release in 2009
filmJames Cameron is excited
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012
voicesAnd nobody from Ukip said babies born to migrants should be classed as migrants, says Nigel Farage
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Stik on the crane as he completed the mural
Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
Arts and Entertainment
Stella Gibson is getting closer to catching her killer
tvReview: It's gripping edge-of-the-seat drama, so a curveball can be forgiven at such a late stage
Brazilian football legend Pele pictured in 2011
peopleFans had feared the worst when it was announced the Brazil legand was in a 'special care' unit
i100(More than you think)
Brendan Rodgers seems more stressed than ever before as Liverpool manager
FOOTBALLI like Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
The number of GP practices with 10 or more doctors has grown by 75 per cent
Phyllis Dorothy James on stage during a reading of her book 'Death Comes to Pemberley' last year
peopleJohn Walsh pays tribute to PD James, who died today
Benjamin Stambouli celebrates his goal for Tottenham last night
Life and Style
Dishing it out: the head chef in ‘Ratatouille’
food + drinkShould UK restaurants follow suit?
peopleExclusive: Maryum and Hana Ali share their stories of the family man behind the boxing gloves
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game