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American Sign Language:  Simultaneous Communication (simcom)


Simcom stands for "simultaneous communication." It is the process of signing and voicing at the same time. ASL/English simcom tends to follow English word order. 


In a message dated 8/3/2010 2:19:22 P.M. Pacific Daylight Time, Matt writes:

Dr. Vicars,
    I was a former ASL student of yours in the 2009-2010 semesters at CSUS. I would like to tell you a few things.   Recently, at my retail job, I noticed a coworker was frustrated because he couldn't understand what customer wanted.  When I arrived to assist, he gave me a poor drawing trying to depict what the customer wanted, and I've seen scribbles that have made more sense than this picture.  I was soon left to help the customer on my own, and when I asked her what she was looking for, did I find that there was a communication barrier.  She could not hear nor talk clearly.  She showed signs of frustration and anger.  Typically, when a customer is angry and we can't help, I take the venting from them and say sorry, and they leave. However, as soon as I saw here make the signs for finish and thank you, ASL classes with you suddenly shot back into memory.  I told her "know sign little."  As soon as she saw that, she had a huge sigh of relief as her shoulders relaxed,  a huge smile spanned across her face and she held her hands together.  Desperately trying to recall all the signs I learned, and use them for items around the store I told her in ASL.  "I want you".  I smiled and hung my head down while I recomposed because I, a 26 year year old, just hit on a 60 year old female accidentally.  I regained my signing abilities and correctly told her that, "I want help you."  She was smiling, almost laughing, as she signed "Okay you new student?".  "One year sign" I said.   I didn't have the exact part she wanted, but I told her that I could make one. The discussions went on after finding out the things I were showing her where either too short or too weak.  She told me how here dog pushes the gate a lot and the hook she needs has to be strong.  In the end, I successfully helped her by getting a "chain" after she spelled it out and I offered to make it work with a hook.  She was very pleased in the end...
...After helping that customer, I got to wondering.  Is it normal to think in English and sign?  Or even to sign and speak English at the same time?  I did that occasionally without even thinking about it.  I still do that "want" sign often. ha ha
Take care,
- Matt ____

Dear Matt,
Hello :)
That is really nice of you to take the time to share that story with me. I appreciate it. Such stories help remind me how fortunate I am to have a career I enjoy that also happens to be of benefit to the community.
In response to your question, (about signing and speaking), there are those who find it easy to sign and speak simultaneously (simcom).  For example, individuals who grew up in mixed Hearing / Deaf families tend to be quite effective at signing and speaking at the same time. It is common to see voicing while signing when someone is trying to facilitate communication amongst a mixed Hearing and Deaf group.
One of the drawbacks to speaking while you sign is that it causes you to use English grammar instead of ASL Grammar.  Also, I've noticed that many people who think they are doing a good job at being clear in both languages at the same time are actually leaving out quite a bit of information in their signing and causing their signing to be more difficult to understand.
In general I encourage my students to not voice while signing and instead focus on clear signing. However, every situation is different. Oh, sure, I would love it if everyone out there was a fluent signer, but in general, I (and my friends) react very warmly and positively whenever I see a sales clerk or waitress add the few signs they know to help clarify what they are saying. 
Dr. Bill

Also see: "Mouthing In ASL?"

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