In sign bilingual programs the signed language and the spoken language are often kept quite separate. Representation of the spoken language in signed form is frequently condemned as inappropriate as are attempts to teach deaf children basic speaking and listening skills. I show that a radical separation of Auslan and English is not desirable and does not reflect the experience of most signing deaf children. By recognising the distinction between native sign languages, and natural and artificial sign systems, one can exploit even minimal knowledge of the phonology of a spoken language to build a bridge to literacy. I conclude that literacy may be facilitated by exploiting natural sign systems, and by recognising differences between spoken and schooled registers of the target language.