Bible Translation Selection Criteria
We have 10 to 12 Deaf* people attending our current Alpha course. The group has a wide range of educational attainment; two guests have post-graduate education, two or three have completed the English equivalent of American high school. The others possess only basic education. All of the group acknowledge them to be Christians.
One Alpha session focuses on the Bible. For this session we brought along a variety of different English translations so guests could check which English one(s) they preferred: Easy-Reading, which with a different cover is marketed as "The Holy Bible for Deaf People", CEV, GNB/TEV, God's Word, TM, the Graphic Bible, and NLT. All deliberately chosen because their targeted reading level is nearly equivalent to that of the average (hearing) adult. All literalistic translations were excluded because of their implicit targetting of above average hearing adults. Of course the group's preferred version is in BSL but the project to produce that translation has only recently begun.
The existing Bible choices for the group are interesting. The two with post-grad education use either the GNB or NCV (in the Youth Bible format). The GNB because of the language and the Youth Bible because of the supplementary information included on the page. One of the "high schoolers" also uses the GNB. The one hearing guest commented that despite a professional background as a general practioner their NIV was sometimes difficult to read. None of the others owns a printed English Bible. They can't access the language of their churches pew Bible (the NIV as it happens). They weren't aware of other translations being available.
Everyone in the group liked The Graphic Bible for its visual presentation but for some the text was too small (and more recent reprints have made it smaller still). The format matches the story-telling aspect of BSL. Although we didn't have a copy on the night some of the group have evaluated the newly published Manga Bible. But sadly that isn't as comprehensive in its narrative retelling of the biblical record and the text is even smaller. Plus The Manga Bible editions tack on a highly literal English translation that many of this group see as nothing better than gibberish. :-|
The most interesting part of the experiment was that the two GNB/TEV users both preferred GW. They really like the conventional one column format of the pages. Also the consistent and clear typography. The English was good too they said; each compared their favourite passages in both translations. They were split over the NLT and CEV. Neither liked the bi-columnar presentation that these versions are printed in. Although the CEV's original British edition use of single columns for poetic books was greatly appreciated. (They didn't notice the tri-columnar format of much of the Torah.) The two liked GW so much that they asked where they could purchased copies for themselves. I'll be seeking out copies for them during a visit to New York in a couple of weeks time.
Presentation seems to be forgotten in Bible publishing. Cramming the text onto the page with multiple footnotes, cross-references and alternate readings appears to be more important than the simple act of reading the text. But it isn't only the D/deaf who have problems with the layout of pages in Bibles. As someone with dyslexia I too find columnar text difficult to access; hence my own preference for GW. My daughter who has M.E. needs to go lie down for several hours if she even glances at a page of the NIV Study Bible; I am NOT exaggerating she truthfully does have to do so. Layout is the first impression. Get it wrong and no matter how "accurate" your translation it will not be read.
* Big-D deaf being those in the sociolinguistic group of sign language speakers rather than little-d deaf who follow a medical-only interpretation of the situation.