Simultaneous Communication | Deaf Awareness Month


My second post for Deaf Awareness Month! Don’t forget to let me know if you have any topics you want to see me talk about! Enjoy!

Let’s begin. If you haven’t seen the first one, go watch/read that, click right here. Today’s post will be talking about sim-com. For those who don’t know what sim-com means, it’s an abbreviation that stands for simultaneous communication. I will talk about that and why it’s an extremely bad idea to do it. Basically what simultaneous communication, sim-com, is… This is when people will sign and verbally speak at the same time. Now, some of you will be “I don’t see the problem with that, I don’t get it. It seems to be fine, and would work.” Some of you will be “Oh gosh, yes! Yes, do not do this!” Generally, it’s not encouraged to do sim-com – in general. Some people will still do it. This all depends on the situation, and why you’re doing sim-com. Generally, sim-com is kind of acceptable if it’s one-on-one, or in a small group. Kind of acceptable. But in large groups, a presentation setting, class – teaching class or presenting for class – nope. Not acceptable. I will explain a few reasons why it’s not acceptable and why it’s just really a terrible idea.

First, I want to give you an example, so you can clearly and quickly understand a little bit. Would you expect someone verbally speak Chinese and also verbally speak English — at the same time? No. You wouldn’t. Because it’s physically impossible. Now, that example is pretty clear why you can’t do sim-com, it’s impossible. But some of you will be asking, “but what’s the problem with signing and voicing, it’s different because it’s using hands and voice. While in the example, English and Chinese both use voice, so that obviously wouldn’t work. Sign and hands vs. voice are different. That’s fine, it can be done.” Here’s a key term: modality. Modality is the method of how something is expressed. Examples are writing, speaking, signing, and for some of you – cued speech. Some of you use Signed Exact English (SEE). Those are examples of different modalities. Modality does not necessarily equal a language in of itself. The reason why I’m saying that is English, the language, has two modalities. Verbal and written. Two different modalities in the same language. For ASL, the modality is sign, no writing. WellThere is a written system but that’s for a whole another video. There’s no verbal speaking or spoken words in ASL. The modality is via the hands. Now, the big reason why many people feel like it’s fine to speak and sign at the same time is because they’re a different modality. Alright. However. The important thing to understand here is that ASL is its own, separate, recognized language. It has its own grammar, syntax, linguistics. All of the things that make it its own language. Yes, it’s true that ASL is another modality, but it’s also another language. You can’t express two languages simultaneously. I know some of you will say “Yeah, but I see some people sign and voice, and they seem fine. Voicing well, or signing well. The voice’s good and matches up well.” Eh, not really. There are some people who have the skill to be able to sign almost perfect ASL and voice everything. That’s a really rare, very rare skill. Sometimes you will see some people doing a “pidgin.” It means a mixture of two languages. If it’s just a way to express yourself, get your point across, that’s fine, sure. Go ahead. But when you’re in a professional setting, presenting to an audience, or group work, or the such — Pidgin generally isn’t accepted. For a good reason. Pidgin is not sim-com. Sim-com is trying to use two languages at the exact same time. Which can’t be done.

Now, I’m going to explain another word in linguistics: code-switching. Code-switching happens when you move from one language to another. Or even within the same language. Let’s look at an example in English. If you’re chatting with your close friends, using a certain way of speaking, then… You switch to talking with your boss. When you’re talking to your boss, you wouldn’t use the same terms, you wouldn’t use the same way of speaking as you would with your friends. That’s code-switching. It also happens when you switch from German to Russian, it’s also considered code-switching. Changing from one way of expressing to another way of expressing. It’s a perfectly normal thing for people to do. It’s like a switch, hence the name code-switching (really more of a dial, moving between multiple ways). It’s using this language, then stopping and switching to that language. That means you can’t do two languages parallel, you can’t. It’s more like this, that, this, that. Our minds cannot focus on two things at the same time. Now before any of you say, “But what about multitasking!” Shh! That’s not a real thing. Science. Multitasking has been proven to not be real. It might feel like you can do multiple things at once. But reallllllly, no. Your brain is just switching its focus from one task to another. Which is what you do when you switch from one language to another. It has been shown that multitasking is really not effective. It ruins your ability to really be able to do something effectively. This is why sim-com doesn’t work. With sim-com, your brain is actually switching very rapidly from one language to another, and forth and back. That’s not really an effective way to express yourself. If you’re just trying to get your point across to that person, fine. But when you’re doing a presentation or whatever, don’t. Just don’t.

I’m going to discuss a bit about my experience with sim-com. I have many, many experiences with sim-com. I even do it myself sometimes. But generally, I don’t. Partly because it really helps people learn sign better, even understand sign better, if I just turn off my voice. Because then they’re not taking in two languages at the same time, trying to process both languages. Typically, with sim-com, it will cause a “loss” of one language. Typically, it will be that person’s second language. Example: you grow up with spoken English only, and no sign. You go into school, maybe college, and decide you want to learn sign, great! You learn it, then sign and try to sim-com… Usually, your brain will focus on your first language, English, and when that happens, your brain will start to forget to sign too. ASL and English have very different grammar structures, it’s nothing alike. Nothing! ASL’s grammar structure is a little bit more like Spanish or Italian. So, that’s partly why you can’t sim-com. Generally, sim-com is not a good idea. That’s all I have for you today. I hope you learned something from this post. I hope this helps you think again if you decide you want to do sim-com, and really think about why you’re doing sim-com. Now, I want to be very clear here. I’m talking more about sim-com in a professional environment such as class, presenting, that kind of thing. I’m not talking about if you’re with your friends, or in a casual environment. That’s up to you and your friends, that’s fine. But for teaching, work, and so on. Hope you enjoyed, and I’ll see you next time!

Published by Rogan Shannon

Hello there! I'm Rogan, a queer deaf guy who has a passion for leadership and advocacy. I create YouTube videos about a lot of different topics - being deaf, queer, reading, language, and whatever else interests me!

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