Wycliffe Associates embarks on daunting task of sign language translations

By May 12, 2010

International (MNN) — "It's a minority group that really is scattered around the world. And it's easy for us to overlook them because just to look at them, you wouldn't know they speak a different language."

Can you tell which people group Bruce Smith of Wycliffe Associates is referring to?

It's the deaf community. And so far, the entire Bible has not been translated into even one of the hundreds of sign languages around the world. Smith said, "With over 200 sign languages in the world, there's only one sign language … in all of history … that's American Sign Language, that actually has the New Testament in video translation. So this is a daunting task."

But Wycliffe Associates knows they need to start somewhere to maintain their commitment to see Scripture in every language around the globe.

Smith said it's a common misconception that since the deaf can see, they can read and therefore they only need a written translation of the Bible. However, the rate of illiteracy in the deaf community is even higher than among the hearing: "Printed English worlds that we would read hear in America have no relationship whatsoever to the sign that American Sign Languages use. They are separate languages. So we need to get out of the mode that what they're doing is just representing the words that we read on a page," Smith said.

That's why Wycliffe Associates is creating video translations for various sign languages around the world. To get started, they're working with a powerful ally: "The great news is that we're working with a partner that's very experienced in this area. They're called Deaf Opportunity OutReach International," Smith said.

Currently, the two organizations are working on completing DOOR's international headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, as well as beginning a specific translation project in San Jose, Costa Rica, with plans for more throughout Latin America.

Since there is little previous work is this field, Smith anticipates this work to take at least a decade. To expedite the process, Wycliffe Associates needs volunteers with job, technical and life skills to aid in many of the tasks that come with translation. The more volunteers they have, the more the translators can focus on simply translating each language.

Want to volunteer? Click here to learn about the skill sets needed to help Wycliffe Associates. The link will also provide more information about the ministry of Wycliffe Associates and other projects they are involved in.

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