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I offer my professional lipreading services to the media, the law sector, and for private commissions such as archive work.

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That Dude …. needs a new set of lips

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We were tasked with lipreading the Osama Bin Laden tapes found in his house, which are in Arabic.

Rashed is bilingual in English and Arabic. He can also lipread both languages. This is really quite an amazing feat, considering how complex the Arabic language is. I know of a lot of hearing people who have given up on learning Arabic because it is so difficult, so it must be much more problematic for a deaf person.

Let’s dig a little deeper …

Saudis have a unique way of pronouncing words that are similar to classical words but they totally mean something else.

Bin Laden was slurring his words and was speaking in quite a different way than he usually did, which made Rashed’s job much harder than usual.

"He looks stoned"

Bin Laden was also lapsing back and forth from Classical Arabic to local dialect (Saudi Arabian). He was also using Ancient Arabic, or what is called the Jahaliya, speech used before and during the Prophet's times. This kind of language can only be found in the Qur'an and not many people can actually speak this way, except the Islamic scholars or Shaikhs.

"We don't use these words in daily life, so we're not familiar with the pronunciation. This requires someone who speaks those words almost everyday, such as an Imam or Shaikh."

You may be wondering how a lipreader can lipread a language they don’t know. If you don’t know a language, it will be difficult to improve your skill at lipreading it, as you can only lipread (and make sense) of what you know. It is better to learn the target language itself and then try to lipread it and get it all to hang together. If you lipread a language you don’t know, then you need to employ a translator to work with you to make sense of the shape confusions and ultimately the dialogue, and consequently the risk of errors is much higher.

Reading Arabic is quite easy. Understanding spoken Arabic depends on the speaker. It took Rashed a while to realize Bin Laden was saying ‘Palestine’ but with a dialect that's not Gulf, nor classical … lol.

In Arabic, they can can say the same word in three different ways and it can mean three different things. Not so funny for the lipreader. Some sounds are invisible, or ‘inflections’, for example, the little squiggly marks on top or underneath the arabic letters; these can completely change how a word is spoken & defined, but the word is the same.

For example, let’s take Rashed’s name;
‫Rashed = راشد

The name is pronounced: raa-shed which means 'adult' or 'mature'

‫Rashed = رشد

Let’s take the same word minus the "a" in Arabic but spoken. If you are lipreading, it will look exactly the same ….. but the meaning changes to ‘growth’.

And you thought lipreading English was hard …

Lipreading: Watch this space

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We were interviewed by The Independent and asked how do people lipread, who lipreads and why, and how people learn to lipread. We discussed how people with a hearing loss lipread, and the use of lipreading as a forensic skill. Read the article in The Independent

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