Can I Use Sign Supported English on a BSL Course?

We frequently have students on our British Sign Language (BSL) courses who work in schools supporting deaf children as Teachers of the Deaf or Teaching Assistants. We VERY much welcome them. In the schools they use Sign Supported English (SSE) much of the time, speaking as they sign. They can find it confusing knowing what sign order to use.

I recommend learning and practising British Sign Language sign order without speaking, ideally with fluent BSL users. Follow the topic / comment structure, adjective after noun, question signs at the end of sentences (but remember BSL is flexible!) Use placement, timelines, classifiers, non-manual features etc…. Studying BSL linguistics will help you understand the language. Watch fluent Deaf signers in real life, online, television BSL interpreters, and try to copy their sign order. This is what you will need to do to pass BSL exams. The examination boards are very strict about not allowing speaking, so practice turning voice off – this is a rule in our classes. You will not pass BSL exams if you use SSE in your assessments.

When in school using Sign Supported English, the signs you use will be mostly the same as BSL signs (you might add some signs such as ‘if’ instead of using signing space and non-manual features to express this.) You will speak if the children have some hearing e.g. with hearing aids or cochlear implants. You will need to switch between BSL and SSE depending on the situation, sometimes in school it is more appropriate to use BSL if the deaf child is fluent.

BSL and SSE are not black and white, and there is variation between what people think of as SSE e.g. depending on whether their first language is BSL or spoken English. Some deaf people follow an English order, so don’t assume every deaf person is using BSL!

If you work in a school and are keen to learn BSL contact us.