24 August 2009

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Isn't sign language universal?
A: No. There are currently 230 confirmed sign languages that have been documented. Language surveyors are anticipating close to 400 worldwide once survey is complete and all are accounted for.

Q: Why do the Deaf need a sign language Bible. Why can't they read the Bible in the language of wider communication?
A: Sign languages are distinct languages which have their own individual linguistic features completely independent of the spoken languages around them. For example, English and ASL have completely different sentence structures, grammatical markers, vocabulary, etc. ASL is a visual language without any written form, while English has a written alphabet composed of letters representing sounds. English speakers learn to read by not merely connecting letters, but sounds, into units of meaning. For a profoundly Deaf individual, every English word is a “sight word” without a sound base (thus phonetically “sounding out” words is impossible). Deaf individuals who primarily use ASL and can read/write in English are actually bilingual. So for a Deaf individual reading a Bible in a spoken language would be the equivalent of a native English speaker reading a Swahili Bible... without ever having heard a word of Swahili spoken. Their only access to God's word is through a second language.

Q: What's the format of a sign language Bible?
A: A sign language Bible can be produced in several formats, the main one being video/DVD. The ASL New Testament (released in 2005 by Deaf Missions) is in DVD format, and can also be downloaded online or purchased in .mp4 for iPods or other personal media devices. 3-D animation is also being developed for sign language translation through JAARS, and will be vital for translation projects in hostile countries where translator's identities would be compromised if associated with a Bible translation. Other formats include traditional line drawings (like most ASL dictionaries you pick up in bookstores) and SignWriting.

Q: How many Deaf people are there worldwide?
A: The Deaf form one of the largest minority groups with about 1 in 1,000 Deaf people in richer countries. In poorer countries, that number is reportedly higher. Population estimates widely vary between 20-250 million Deaf worldwide. The World Federation of the Deaf website reports their organization represents approximately 70 million Deaf around the world.

Q: Are the Deaf really an "unreached" people group?
A: Yes. The Deaf have been called "the most unevangelized minority group in the world," with only an estimated 2% having embraced the gospel. All but the ASL Deaf community are bibleless peoples.

Q: So how many Sign Language Bibles have been done?
A: Out of 230 confirmed sign languages, only ONE (American Sign Language, 2005) New Testament translation has been completed. NONE have access to the whole Bible in their heart language. However, translation is currently underway or groundwork is being laid in 50 sign languages in approximately 30 countries through a variety of organizations.

1 comment:

anthony said...

WOW this is something i desire to be a part of