A People’s Association-endorsed sign language instructor has come under fire online after she demonstrated inaccurate signs on a Channel 8 current affairs programme, 狮城有约 Hello Singapore, on 20 Nov evening.
The instructor, Tan Teck Sum, claims that she teaches SEE (Signing Exact English) classes to the public. Approved by the People’s Association (PA), Tan conducts her classes, that come under the SkillsFuture government scheme, at community centres.
It was revealed that Tan is not recognised as an instructor in the deaf community of Singapore after her attempts to teach the hosts of the Channel 8 show how to sign simple phrases drew flak from those in the deaf community.
[PUBLIC POST on my Facebook wall][UPDATED at 9:02pm] MESSAGE: "STOP LINGUISTIC PROFITEERING!"Despite my revision…
The Singapore Association for the Deaf (SADeaf) subsequently released two statements on the matter.
In the first statement, the association clarified that Tan has never been on SADeaf’s list of SEE instructors nor on the list of SgSL (Singapore Sign Language) instructors:
Media Statement by Executive Director, Ms Sylvia TengReference to the programme on Channel 8 Chinese Current Affairs…
The group’s second statement was an open letter to the PA. The association’s executive director, Sylvia Teng, highlighted the concerns of the deaf and hard-of-hearing community regarding Tan’s inaccurate signing to the PA.
She also stressed the importance of the SgSL to the PA. The SgSL is the native sign language used in Singapore.
Teng wrote, in part:
“It has been brought to our attention by concerned viewers and members of our Deaf & Hard-of-hearing community over the quality of sign language instructors after watching the inaccurate signs demonstrated by Ms Tan Teck Sum (a Hearing & an instructor endorsed/approved by PA to conduct sign language courses at its community centres) during the interview segment on Channel 8 Chinese Current Affairs Programme – 狮城有约 Hello Singapore (乐学梦起飞) aired on 20 November 2017.
It is important to note that if the person who is conducting the sign language courses does not possess the relevant qualifications/training or skills to run such courses, it will affect the course participants’ learning of the language and their proficiency in communication with our Deaf and Hard-of-hearing community.
Singapore Sign Language (SgSL) is our native sign language that has developed over the last 6 decades, which is socially recognised and accepted by our Deaf & Hard-of-hearing community and is a reflection of Singapore’s diverse linguistic culture.
Signing Exact English (SEE) is not a sign language, but a sign system which, as its name implies, follows English exactly in terms of word order and grammar. It visually represents spoken language on the hands and can be used simultaneously with voiced English.
Over the years, SADeaf has been dedicating resources to research and develop the Singapore Sign Language (SgSL) curriculum and teaching materials. All our SgSL instructors have to undergo regular assessments & in-house training, including training conducted by overseas trainers before they are certified to conduct SgSL courses.
From our records, Ms Tan Teck Sum (Hearing) has never been on SADeaf’s list of Signing Exact English (SEE) instructors nor on the current list of Singapore Sign Language (SgSL) instructors.
Sign language instructors listed with PA are also not on our current list of SgSL instructors.
As such, SADeaf is concerned of their teaching abilities and the original source/quality of their teaching materials and regrettably unable to conscientiously recommend or endorse them.
A qualified and trained Deaf sign language instructor would have been more appropriate to teach sign language to members of the public as he/she will be in the better position to share about our unique Deaf Culture and our language.”
Open Letter to the People's Association (PA) by SADeaf Executive Director, Ms Sylvia TengReference: Quality of Sign…
Several netizens and related groups supported SADeaf’s statements on the matter. One such group, the Disabled People’s Association Singapore, opined that “the programme could have sent a much stronger message had it been a representative who was Hard of Hearing, or Deaf to teach the appropriate signs, which would have also avoided this issue.”