Survey work informs sign language Bible translation

By September 22, 2022

International (MNN) — You’ve probably heard the saying, “Knowledge is power.” The same is true in Bible translation.

Language survey work helps a team know who will use the translation when it’s done.

“It’s like digging a well. You could pick a spot in your backyard and dig a hole until you get water. That’s one way of doing it,” Dan* explains, using an analogy to emphasize the practical importance of survey work.

“It’s a better plan to ask your neighbors, ‘where did you put your well? How deep did you have to dig it? Did you have to go through bedrock?’ etc.”

Chronological Bible Translation (CBT) builds a foundation for spiritual growth through features like chronological order, group processing, and informational segments.
(Photo, caption courtesy of DOOR International)

Dan leads sign language survey work for DOOR International, a Deaf ministry. This work helps DOOR determine where and when to begin new Chronological Bible Translation projects.

“We’re trying to find out where to target our Bible translations, so they meet the needs of the greatest amount of people as efficiently as possible. We have the world pretty well mapped out regarding who uses what spoken languages. That is not the case in sign languages,” Dan says.

“Information just doesn’t exist.”

The global outbreak of COVID-19 paused this critical work in 2020. “Typically, survey work requires traveling to another country, visiting six [to] eight cities, [and] meeting hundreds of people, which is not viable” during a pandemic, Dan says.

Zoom, a video calling platform, came to the rescue when nationwide lockdowns continued in 2021. “In one country in Eastern Europe, people on the ground [helped] us set up research sessions” with local Deaf people, Dan says.

“We had between 10 and 12 people in each city hop on Zoom for an entire day and do these different research tools with us.”

This method created an effective “workaround” when in-person meetings weren’t possible. It could also create new opportunities in countries that are hostile to the Gospel.

Praise God for creative problem-solving ideas. Pray the Lord would raise skilled workers to help teams involved in sign language survey projects.

Learn more about DOOR’s work here.


*Name withheld for security purposes.



Header image shows Deaf believers recording a sign language Bible translation. Before the team can start a translation project, they need to know if the Deaf community will accept it. Survey work provides this information. (Photo courtesy of DOOR International