Pandemic threatens future sign language Bible translations

By March 25, 2021

International (MNN) — It’s fairly easy to understand the need for sign language Scripture. Deaf people around the world use an estimated 400 unique sign languages, and only one has a full Bible translation. What may not be obvious is how the pandemic affects the translation process.

“COVID has significantly crippled our ability to do field research. Sign language survey is a very hands-on process,” says Dan*, a believer who does sign language survey work with DOOR International.

“You have a whole host of people coming in from around the world, interacting with many, many people in that community, and then going back to their home countries – which is a terrible idea with the pandemic going on right now.”

Dan says survey work helps DOOR decide where and how to start new sign language Bible translations. Dan and his team do everything they can virtually, “but most of the languages that DOOR targets are in developing countries where there’s not a lot of technology,” he explains.

“Frankly, COVID[-19] has put a lot of our ability to make good progress on language survey on hold indefinitely.”

(Photo courtesy of DOOR International)

DOOR is not stopping its work in sign language Bible translation. However, with the first step “on hold,” everything else has to wait, too.

“By the time a Bible translation project starts and they translate the first verse, there’s been perhaps two years of work that go into surveying and researching, developing partnerships, recruiting, planning, budgeting, and raising funds for that project,” Dan explains.

Pray for the pandemic to end so survey work can resume and new translations can begin, he requests.

“We really appreciate prayers that COVID would settle down. [Pray] that we’d be able to get back to doing our in-person field research, which is the most valuable tool we have to make wise decisions about how and where to begin [new] translations.”


*– Name withheld for security purposes.


Header image courtesy of DOOR International.

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