The Challenge of Group Conversations

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Basically, group conversations are a big challenge to communication skills and methods used by Deaf, deaf and HOH people. This is due to the following factors:

  1. In one-on-one conversations, the hearing impaired person can stop the conversation at any time and ask for clarifications. This is not so in group conversations.
  2. Lipreaders know exactly where to look at when there are only one or two other participants in the discussion. not so when there are 5 or 10 or 100 people.
  3. When there are several people in the group, there are often several conversations going on simultaneously, and some HOH people find it difficult to tune in into one conversation and tune out all background noise.
  4. The help Sign Language interpreters can provide is sometimes limited.
  5. Sometimes it is difficult to make meaningful contribution to the discussion in such a way that other persons listen to you, and you make the contribution exactly in the correct timing - before the group has moved away to another topic.
  6. Group conversations are the most rigorous tests of the oral skills possessed by oral deaf people.

Sign Language provides full access to group conversations

(Contributed at 29 Nov 1995 by a DEAF-L subscriber, who asked to withhold his name.)

Sign Language provides full access to group conversations, regardless of whether the rest of the group does or does not know Sign Language. When the rest of the group does not know Sign Language, interpreters are needed.

Of course, in any group conversations, there are often overlapping and even hearing people get lost.

I'm talking about situations in which there is no overlapping, and when it is possible to "hear" everything.

Some such situations would be:

large classroom. Professor and students enter a dialogue. Oral deaf persons cannot snap their head back and forth and still catch everything. Even more so when there are multiple participants. Someone in the back row says so and so, professor says something, guy in third row say something, and gal in end of 5th row responds. Oral deaf persons will be lucky even to know who's talking, much less catch them in time to lipread.

With interpreters, this problem is solved.

There are zillion other situations where interpreters can catch much much more if not everything, while oral deaf persons cannot get much, if anything.

That's what I'm talking about. I am not even talking about rubbish when even hearing people cannot follow anything. I'm talking about when it's possible to hear and follow things but deaf people, without an interpreter (usually oral deaf persons) cannot follow anything.

Last update date: 
2007 Aug 16