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Wednesday, June 07, 2006

It must be a sign

Many Pies has blogged on the need for Bibles in sign language. There are quite a number of sign languages used by the deaf around the world. They have different grammars from non-sign languages. Those whose heart language is a sign language need to "hear" the Bible in that heart language.


At Thu Jun 08, 03:30:00 AM, Blogger anonymous said...

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At Thu Jun 08, 04:04:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Although Many Pies is a friend and former colleague and neighbour of mine, and I gave Wayne the link to his blog, I don't know any more about this particular sign language translation than in his posting and the linked article. But I do know that some sign language translation projects in fact aim to provide not an abstract representation of the text, but an actual performance as a video recording, perhaps on DVD. This is partly because there is no generally accepted way of making an abstract representation of sign language. Thus the situation is similar to a spoken language which has no written form, or not one which is widely read: a Bible translation may have to be distributed in an audio form, which necessarily implies a specific performance. But then one could argue that a specific printed form of the text is also a specific performance.

Indeed the linked article suggests the same:

In Spain, translators are exploring several means of producing Scripture on paper and DVD including writing systems and 3D animation. Deaf communities in Mexico and

Colombia want translations in video or DVD format. Anyone who knows the language will understand.

Of course if Scripture is to be distributed as a specific performance, that performance must be done properly, and checked before distribution. It would be wrong to distribute a performance in which there was for example incorrect stress (or the sign language equivalent) giving a wrong understanding. And there are challenges here related to matters which are ambiguous, perhaps deliberately, in the written text but where the ambiguity has to be resolved in a performance. But then the same is true whenever the Bible is read out loud e.g. in church.

At Thu Jun 08, 07:18:00 AM, Blogger anonymous said...

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At Thu Jun 08, 07:36:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

The point here is that because profoundly deaf people may not speak English well, unless they have access through cued speech or lip reading, they do not read English well. It is common for deaf people to achieve only a grade 3 or 4 literacy level in English, or the language of their surrounding culture, because they do not speak that language as their first language and do not have access to the phonetic system.

There is no established written form of sign language, so what is intended in this article must be someone signing the words of the Bible.

There is an assumption that the Deaf should be able to read like anyone else the language of their surrounding culture, but this is only true if they have access to the basic language structure. For many this language is a second lg to them, that they understand and read in a limited way.

The deaf people I know are oral, that is, they communicate in English through lip-reading or with assisted hearing and cued specch.

However, this article very rightly brings attention to those Deaf who speak Sign as their first language. They should have the Bible in their first language.

At Thu Jun 08, 07:36:00 AM, Blogger R. Mansfield said...

Having a number of deaf acquaintances, I believe this would be a great idea. I think something like this would not only help the hearing impaired, but also churches that have a minstry to the deaf.

A few years back, Baker published a translation of the Bible called the English Version for the Deaf. It was also published under the title, Easy-to-Read version. I looked to see if it is still in print and Amazon does carry it, but it is very pricy--$50. I have no idea why it is so expensive. I don't remember paying that much for my copy.

In the Preface of the English Version for the Deaf, the statement is made that "Hearing persons learn English largely through oral conversation. The deaf do not have this advantage, so their experience with the language is severely limited. It is this limited experience with the spoken language that causes most of the problems the deaf face in learning to read."

The English Version for the Deaf is characterized by very short sentences, usually in simple subject-predicate constructions. Here is a sample:

People will say bad things against you and hurt you. They will lie and say all kinds of evil things against you because you follow me. But when people do those things to you, you are blessed. Be happy and glad. You have a great reward waiting for you in heaven. People did those some bad things to the prophets that lived before you.
Matt 5:11-12

At Thu Jun 08, 07:41:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

PS There is a line in the preface of the TNIV where the translation committee states that they do not endorse the red letter editions but they are the 'publishers choice.'

I dislike red letter editions also. But I do like the Lindisfarne gospels and they must rank as 'interliniear' or 'glosses.'

At Thu Jun 08, 02:41:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

I agree that the ideal is to have access to one's own printed Bible that one can study at one's own pace. But in the overall context of church history this is something of a luxury. Only within the last couple of hundred years at the most have Bibles been available at a price which ordinary people could afford, and for even less time have most people been able to read at all. Before that, only religious and academic professionals and rich people were able to study the Bible for themselves; most others had to rely on what they heard read out in church or elsewhere. Now, fortunately, the printed Bible is easily available, at least in most parts of the world. But there are still many illiterate people worldwide, including those whose languages have not been written down at all (although some of these, including some deaf sign language users, may have limited reading skills in a written language which is not their first language). There are also blind people. For such people, by the miracles of modern technology, the Bible text is now becoming available on audio or video. This is not like listening to the Bible read out live, for a tape or DVD can be under the control of the user and can be paused, rewound etc as required. The user interface may not be quite as straightforward as paging through a book - although if well designed it need not be much more difficult. As a result, even if we can agree that the written text would be the best solution of all, the options available to the illiterate, the deaf and the blind are now only a little bit less good.

At Fri Jun 09, 12:55:00 AM, Blogger Paul Morriss said...

My blog is Many Pies, I'm Paul Morriss.

Suzanne got the point about the performance aspect, and the lack of access to the phonetic aspects of a spoken and written language.

As to how the Bible would be represented, what the different sign language communities want seems to vary. Some use an abstract notation which looks a bit like someone signing, others use little pictures of the head and upper body with arrows indicating movement. Video recordings and computer generated figures are also possibilities.

If you want more info you can see a video clip and get more details of a DVD here:

It's worth pointing out, as it isn't obvious, that there isn't one sign language, but at least 121:


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