Why is there still not a completed Bible in any sign languages?

By October 2, 2018

International (MNN) — Yesterday, we talked about why partnership is important for the completion of sign language Bible translations for the Deaf. Today, we spoke with Deaf Bible Society to learn what that partnership actually looks like.

The task before them is large, but they have to start somewhere. Deaf Bible Society’s Kristin Dodd explains, “Out of the over 400 sign languages, not one language has a full translation of the Bible yet. The language that is the closest to having a full translation is American Sign Language. Our goal with our partners is to have that full Bible translation completed by 2020.”

Currently, Deaf Bible Society’s website hosts 28 sign languages, each with various portions of Scripture available.

(Photo courtesy of Deaf Bible Society)

According to Dodd, this means a sign language “might have 32 [Bible] stories through DOOR [International] completed or they might have some chapters in the Bible but not others. But when a piece of Scripture is completely finished, it can be uploaded to the Deaf Bible website.

“There [are] also several translation projects that have been started that don’t have a complete portion of Scripture yet for us to put on our Deaf Bible platform.”

One looming question is, why has it taken so long to get even one full Bible into a sign language for the Deaf?

“People have been studying linguistics for spoken and written languages for hundreds of years. It wasn’t until around the 1960s that a man named William Stokoe verified that sign languages are indeed languages.

“People began to recognize…if these sign languages are actual languages, I guess we need to start researching them. We need to start doing translations for the Bible.

“Through that, that’s kind of where the birth of researching sign languages and then, later on, creating sign language translations began.”

Now, the challenge is that sign language translations of the Bible are different and sometimes more time consuming than written Scripture translations.

(Photo courtesy of Deaf Bible Society)

“The person [who] is signing in the video often has to memorize large pieces of Scripture to sign in full in one video take,” says Dodd. “As they take that video and they check it for accuracy and test it with the community and go through all the steps of Bible translation, they then have to go back and re-film that portion of Scripture. So it’s a little bit of a different process compared to written or spoken language Bible translation.”

Deaf Bible Society is part of the Deaf Strategic Alliance, along with several other ministries. As this coalition works towards getting full Bible translations into 400-plus sign languages, they need prayers and support from the global Body of Christ.

“All over the world, translation projects are either being started or are in the process of translation. But that’s where we really have a big need for resources so we can continue to fund those projects as well as start new projects.”

Please pray for sign language Bible translation efforts to get the people and resources they need so the projects can be completed without delay. Ask God to prepare the hearts of Deaf individuals to respond to His Word in faith.

If you would like to support Deaf Bible Society, click here!



Header photo courtesy of Deaf Bible Society

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