Total Communication and Bi-Bi

By Moores, Donald F. | American Annals of the Deaf, March 1999 | Go to article overview

Total Communication and Bi-Bi


Moores, Donald F., American Annals of the Deaf


Recently, I have observed in several classrooms and some different schools that the line between bilingual-bicultural (Bi-Bi) programs and total communication (TC) programs has become blurred. Although the stated communication philosophy may vary, in reality there may be more variation within any school than across schools. In fact, both inside the classroom and outside, it is sometimes difficult to know which of the two approaches is being used. In both settings, I have observed teachers and children signing with voice and without voice. I have also observed sign communication following English word order as well as communication that was clearly ASL. Some people apparently believe that if they sign without voice, then it is by definition ASL, even if they include invented signs to indicate English tense, number, adverbs, articles, the verb to be, and selected pronouns such as he, she, and it. There are other examples, as well. I have observed oral classes and cued speech classes where most or all of the childto-child communication, not to mention teacher-to-child communication, has been through some form of sign. However, at this time I want to concentrate on Bi-Bi and TC programs.

Of course, there are differences. From my observations, deaf teachers tend to use ASL more and code-switch more effectively from English to ASL. However, there are many exceptions to this. There are many deaf teachers who are not experienced, skilled signers, and there are many hearing teachers who are. There are also some schools-in my observations a few schools-that consistently use ASL exclusively for through-the-air communication. Most seem to function along a continuum from ASL to English, with great in-school variation.

The trend toward incorporating ASL within total communication programs has existed for almost three decades. In fact, Roy Holcomb, who led the movement toward total communication, was clear in his position that total communication included all aspects, all modes and systemsspeech, simultaneous speech, and signs (Sim-Com), finger spelling, gestures, reading and writing. …

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