You may have seen via ‘My BSL Journey’ videos, where I document my early stages of learning British Sign Language, that I actually use a form of Sign Supported English instead of a true BSL.
But what is Sign Supported English and how is it different to British Sign Language?
I explain below and also discuss on who uses it and whether it’s worth learning it or not.
What is Sign Supported English?
Sign Supported English (SSE) is a form of Manually-Coded English (MCE) and also known as conceptually accurate signed English. It is a type of sign language that follows the spoken and reading English language and follows its structure. So it’s more “full” as it is translated word by word.
Compared to BSL, it uses fewer words, it is more brief and it is not in the same structure as spoken English. In fact, some words can be placed before or after the sentence.
Because here’s the thing; British Sign Language (and as far as I know, all official sign languages across the world), does not follow the oral form of the language.
So saying “How are you? or “I have to go to work” by sign language is very different to how you say it orally, even if both languages exists in the same country.
The only thing that is similar between SSE and BSL is the use of the same signs to communicate.
In order to understand it better, I can demonstrate that for you below:
Who uses Sign Supported Sign English?
There are a few scenarios where SSE can be useful:
- People Who Are Learning Sign Languages or Wants to Learn the Basic Phrases – If you are someone like me and you are learning or you want to learn some basic phrases in sign language, you can do that if you have good vocabulary.
- For Those Working in Educational Sector – if you are a teacher and you happen to have a deaf student in your class, the first thing I would do is to find out what kind of support they really need. But in other cases, learning a few signs and vocabularies will enable you to communicate with SSE.
- Used With Those Who Have Speech or Language Difficulties – if a person has learning disabilities, you may find it easier to communicate with SSE combined with other forms of communications sign as voice, hand gestures and demonstrations.
- When signing to popular music – when you see covers of popular music done using the vocabularies of British Sign Language, more of than not, they are using SSE. As Wayne Barrow, who runs his own sign-singing academy, explained in a recent podcast, it is a better way and more accurate of expressing that song like how the artist intended it.
Should I learn Sign Supported English?
There isn’t really a way to learn SSE. You will not find any courses that teaches you it nor are there interpreting services available in the UK for SSE. You can learn it by yourself if you have enough vocabularies and you put the signs together to make a sentence.
If you just want to the basic, you can sign with SSE. But if you want to master the sign language, BSL is the way to go.
Even though it’s not grammatically correct like BSL, SSE is still understandable for many Deaf people and it is satisfactory as a language in its own.
But as I said, it’s only satisfactory. Because to truly be able to communicate with other Deaf people, it is always preferred if you attempt to speak in BSL.
It’s not easy at first once you make that transition and I know I’m finding it difficult.
But once you get the hang of it, it will get easier. It’s just like when you are learning any new language; you start off learning the basic phrases and vocabularies, but then you will eventually have to learn how to structure your sentence.
Sign language is no difference.
But if you are sticking with SSE for now, lip reading is also a key factor to help overcome communication barriers as well as being deaf aware.
If you want to check out how I sign in BSL/SSE, check out My BSL Journey here.
However, if I have missed out on anything around SSE and you have information to share, do feel free to leave a comment below.
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- “There should be a universal sign language…” – My thoughts - April 27, 2021
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