Deaf studies

Simultaneous communication to use or to avoid?

In short, practice bilingualism, not simultaneous communication.

Simultaneous communication or its term variants (SimCom and sign supported speech) is one of some "communication methods", in which one speaks both spoken language and manually coded English at the same time.

It's commonly used among hearing signers with other hearing listeners in front of Deaf people so that Deaf persons can be involved in the conversations.

Top reasons for say no to SimCom

Speaking two languages in two modes simultaneously may sound perfectly feasible to naive hearing people. But, it's not feasible.

With an exception in some social situations which will be discussed later in this post. But, definitely not to be used in classroom.

Signed English is not a language

English and ASL are two separate languages of their own as distinct as any other spoken and signed languages. They are entirely different with their own syntax, semantics, and structure.

One cannot speak two languages at the same time, regardless of separate modalities. Having an advantage of two different modalities doesn't mean one can use two languages at the same time. It's an analogy to speaking English and typing Arabic at the same time. Result? Broken Arabic with English-like grammar.

Not only the dominant language corrupts grammar in the oppressed language, it also loses intonation, contextual meanings (words in different contextual sentences), prosody, and other linguistic features.

SimCom is a symbol of oppression

When speaking both languages at the same time, one strongly tends to, if not always, speak full English and broken ASL.

What this tells is that ASL tends to be devalued and that English tends to be chosen or a priority over ASL. It explicitly exhibits an audist attitude. It's part of a history-long oppression of audism and linguicism.

SimCom can be harmful to language acquisition

A number of studies, including neuroscience and linguistics, reveal that ASL or any signed language is a genuine, human language that language regardless of hands or lips is central to the brain, not speech. Below are two quick examples of some facts.

Speaking ASL activates the same linguistic regions of the brain (Broca for expression and Wernicke for recepion) as speaking English. What this means is that language resides in the brain, not in mouth or hands.

Language acquisition in ASL is on the same milestones as that in English. For example, linguistic pointing (pronouns in ASL) emerges at about the same time as pronouns in English in children. What's more, it comes with pronoun reversal errors that appear in ASL-speaking toddlers despite its iconicity at around the same age as found in English-speaking toddlers.

SimCom with deaf children during the critical period of language development hinders natural language acquisition. Because, 1) deaf children are not fully accessible to spoken language via speech, despite cochlear implants or any other devices; 2) signed English is not a language. In the end, language acquisition is weakened.

Practice bilingualism, not simcom

Raising a bilingual child in both English and ASL (one signed and one spoken of any languages) is highly beneficial for the brain.

Approaches to speaking two languages -- English and ASL -- at home with a child is no different from those speaking two spoken languages at home.

For a parent who raises a deaf baby with CI and who wishes to expose both spoken English and spoken (signed) ASL, speak in one language and then another or vice versa whether it's a word, a phrase, or a sentence. In this way, one can articulate full sentences in a language at a time.

To teach a bilingual child a word for an object in two languages, sign an ASL word and then speak the English word or vice versa. Balance with firsts. E.g. first ASL, then English. Next time, first English then ASL. Or, a parent speak one language and the other parent speaks another language. It depends from one family to another. But, don't speak both languages at the same time with a few occasional exceptions.

For example, an ASL-speaking parent might sign "no" at the same time vocalizing "no" for more emphasis (e.g. to prevent a child from doing something dangerous). It's normal. To articulate full sentences, use one language at a time in normal circumstances.

When to use simcom

A common situation is a casual hearing-hosted party or social/family event where a hearing friend or even an oral deaf would speak English and ASL at the same time when having a conversation with others if their deaf friend is present with them so not to leave the deaf person out. Likewise, conversely, a friend might chat in ASL with his/her friend at the same speaking English if their hearing friend is present.

If the person is interested in the topic, she/he would ask the bimodal for more information in full ASL or English (whoever is asking). If a deaf and a hearing person are conversing, the bilingual might faciliate (avoid the term "interpret") in full English and full ASL. Or, then they would chat one-on-one directly in writing back and forth if the deaf person doesn't vocally speak and the hearing person doesn't manually speak.

It's all about flexibility and inclusive strategies at an informal party.

For weddings and such formal settings, a certified professional English-ASL interpreter is usually hired for both deaf and hearing participants for accessibility to both parties (deaf and hearing).

New to sign language? "Where do I start?" or "How do I start learning sign language?" This ASL Rookie guide lists some selected links to the tutorials for ASL beginners to get started and keep rolling. It may be a useful review for intermediate-level learners and ASL students as well.

Some tutorial pages are a mix of free and premium versions. Access to premium content and links below are available in the PatronPlus subscription. More links/posts will be added from time to time.

Expressing needs and wants

  1. Making commands or requests

Talking about activities

  1. Frequency of time: how often?

Are you able to carry everyday conversations in ASL? Are you a student in the intermediate levels and beyond, who wishes to boost up your signing skills? You've come to the selected tutorial series. (Some premium content are available to PatronPlus membership.)

Stories, poems, performance arts, etc. in sign language.

This documentation project follows a child's language acquisition, literacy development, and phonological acquisition in sign language, specifically ASL, from newborn to age five in a natural native-ASL environment and visual culture.