Use Sign Language in English Order With Signing Exact English

It may not get as much coverage, but the Signing Exact English, a popular form of Manually Coded English, is still with us. SEE is a form of communication/instruction in which signs are used in exact English word order, with some additional signs for conventions such as the "ing" word ending. Over the years, SEE combined with ASL to create Pidgin Signed English (or PSE).

Parent communicating in sign language with child
Dieter Spears / Getty Images

History of Signed English

SEE first appeared in 1972. Its popularity grew as both schools and parents found it a useful tool for instructing deaf children in English. An article, "A history of seeing essential English (SEE I)" in the American Annals of the Deaf, gives more background.

Support for Signed English

The only organization promoting SEE is the SEE Center. Highlights of the SEE Center website:

  • An online brochure: This brochure, available only in HTML format, explains what the SEE Center is, and products and other materials available from the Center.
  • Job listings: On this page, there are listings for interpreters and teachers who know SEE.
  • Discussion Forum: Here, people using SEE can talk about only SEE.
  • Educational Sign Skills Evaluation testing: Information about the testing of a person's ability to receive, interpret, or instruct in SEE (and ASL and PSE).
  • Workshops (or skillshops): The SEE Center sponsors workshops around the nation, to help people learn and practice SEE skills.


On the SEE Center website, there is a downloadable bibliography of articles, available in Word and HTML formats. A companion listing lists articles about the use of SEE with hearing children. In addition, the American Annals of the Deaf occasionally publishes articles related to signed English, such as "Deaf Children Creating Written Texts: Contributions of American Sign Language and Signed Forms of English," from volume 145 No. 5, 394-403.


One of the biggest advantages to SEE is that children's books can be produced with SEE. Both Gallaudet University and Modern Signs Press have developed and published classic children's books with SEE. These books usually have the stories illustrated on one page, with an adjacent page having illustrations of the signs with text labels under each sign.

Children's Books From Modern Signs Press:

  • Grandfather Moose: This two-book series has rhymes and games in sign language.
    • Talking Fingers Series: This is a series of colorful, simple themed books:
      I Was So Mad: Theme is a children's fight.
    • Little Green Monsters: Theme is directions (here, there).
    • At Grandma's House: About a child who loves being with her grandmother.
    • Popsicles Are Cold: Introduces the concept of opposites like hot and cold.
  • In Our House: Kids like to help around the house.
  • Music in Motion: Twenty-two children's songs are presented in sign language.

Children's Books From Gallaudet University:

  • Night Before Christmas: the classic story, beautifully illustrated. 
  • Little Red Riding Hood: The classic, well-illustrated tale.
  • Nursery Rhymes from Mother Goose
  • Goldilocks and the Three Bears

Gallaudet University Press has also produced a series of easier children's books (the titles are self-explanatory) at three levels of simplicity, including:

  • Circus Time (Level I)
  • Count and Color (Level I)
  • Jack and the Beanstalk (Level III)
  • Mouse's Christmas Eve (Level III)
  • Police Officer Jones (Level I)
  • The Clock Book (Level II)
  • The Holiday Book (Level II)

Children's Books From Garlic Press:

Garlic Press also publishes children's books that use conceptually accurate signed English or have a loose English structure, including:

  • Signing At School
  • Songs in Sign
  • Mother Goose in Sign
  • Expanded Songs in Sign
    • Sign Language Literature Series
      Coyote & Bobcat
    • Raven & Water Monster
    • Ananse the Spider
    • Fountain of Youth

Signed English Instruction Books

Modern Signs Press has published a comprehensive dictionary, Signing Exact English, complete with all the conventions. It is available in paperback, hardcover, or a pocket edition. Gallaudet University Press has its own books, The Comprehensive Signed English Dictionary, The Signed English Schoolbook, and The Signed English Starter. Garlic Press also publishes two instructional books, A Word in the Hand Book One and A Word in the Hand Book Two.

Signed English Video Material

  • Visual Tales Series: A series of signed versions of classic children's stories.
  • School Zone Series: A series of educational videos focused on topics such as colors or animals.
  • Funtime Kids Videos: More classic and some not so classic, children's stories.
  • Rather Strange Stories: These intermediate level videotapes each focus on the vocabulary associated with a topic, e.g. the Body and Health.
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  1. Luetke-stahlman B, Milburn WO. A history of seeing essential English (SEE I). Am Ann Deaf. 1996;141(1):29-33. doi:10.1353/aad.2012.0001