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Signed English is not the enemy:

- Bill Vicars

Question:
An ASL hero writes:  "When picture books rhyme, would it be better to use signed English to preserve the rhyme scheme or not worry about it and use ASL?"

Response:
Part of the reason for rhyme in children's books is that it makes it "fun" for the child to do.

Ask yourself: Does Signing English to match English voiced rhyme make the content more "fun" for a Deaf child? Or does it just make the overall message more confusing and harder to understand?

However, it is a complex topic full of pros and cons. If one of the overall goals is for a child to grow up to be bilingual in both English and ASL it is good to see Signed English as "one tool" in a very large toolbox.

I don't use a hammer to turn a screw. I don't throw away my hammer because someone else doesn't like hammers. I look at my situation and see what is needed and apply the right tool.

Change the question.

Instead ask a much more complex question such as adding this to the end of your original question by adding this:

" or would it be even better still to invest ten times the effort, discuss the book in ASL, do a play acting skit based on the book, watch a cartoon depicting the story, return to the book, engage in a complex translanguaging process involving using specific English signs to map to English concepts and back to ASL again, while frequently asking the child what they think is going to happen next and how they feel about what just happened and why?"

 



 

Notes:

I shared the above response because too many people attempt to make Signed English an "enemy" instead of simply it being one tool in a large toolbox in which the main and most frequently used tool should be ASL.

Schools or programs that use Signed English to the exclusion of ASL are attempting to use a screwdriver to "do it all" -- at the expense of the child. That is why many in the Deaf community develop a single-minded aversion to Signed English.

What it comes down to is:

Can you sign the story in the book using fluent, clear, awesome ASL? Yes? Good -- do that first -- that is the priority. Still have time, energy and enthusiasm left over after fluently signing it in ASL? Still have the attention of the child? Fine -- start mapping to English and develop the child's bilingual skills. Then go back and discuss it in ASL to wrap up.

My next statement is not directed at any one person but to everyone:

Stop making Deaf education an "either / or" situation. Make it a "lots and lots" situation.

 

 


* So, if Signed English isn't the enemy (and you feel you simply must have one) -- then what is? 
Answer:  Language deprivation.
 




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