Sign Language Translation Methods. Did You Know?

Whether traditional, book-by-book, sign language Scripture translation or sign language Chronological Bible Story translation, there are common principles and best practices observed in the process that you may have never heard before. Walk with me to discover why… 

Best Practices Make Best Translations!

Throughout the process of sign language Bible translation, Deaf teams and leaders work alongside certified Translation Consultants from various Bible societies. Translation consultants are experts in translation and often have other training in fields related to translation such as linguistics, biblical history, biblical culture, theology, Greek, and Hebrew. Consultants also have extensive training in using commentaries and “translation helps.” Translation consultants are a necessary part of the translation process.

The Translation Task

Sign language teams will study the biblical passage in a written or signed language they know. Based on that study, they will develop their signed video rough draft verses or Biblical story content. They send their video content to the consultant to check for biblical accuracy. Based on the consultant’s feedback, they will revise their draft and send the content again.This may happen several times until the consultant is satisfied. In addition to the consultant’s feedback, the translation team will gather feedback from Deaf people in their community to ensure that the signed content is clear, accurate, and acceptable. 

Some teams will film several revisions before presenting to a Deaf community. The community provides valuable feedback to the Deaf teams regarding the signer and the clarity of the passage. Specific questions give the teams additional input on how the community understands the passages. If the overall community perspective does not match the translator’s aim, the team knows they have missed the mark and must revise their translation.

Depending on the team’s translation approach and the technology available, some Deaf teams choose to  memorize their translation draft before filming. Others may use video cueing or glosses (one way to write sign language) using video displays or teleprompters to aid in signing the script. 

Other important members of the translation team are video editors and artists. Video editors are responsible for pulling all the pieces together for the final video. Some teams employ artists for backgrounds or corresponding pictures displayed in the videos. The Deaf community in each country will determine the best distribution of the video content; some countries still use CD/DVDs, some are using microSD cards, and others use apps or websites to stream the content over the internet. As technology evolves, media preferences and distribution methods change to keep up with supply and demand.

Building a team requires active and motivated team members, dedicated to the overall goal of God’s Word in every sign language. The team’s project manager keeps the team moving forward and communicates progress with partners and community members. Additionally, the project manager works with the team to construct proposals to find adequate funding, all of which can feel overwhelming. 

Until All Have His Word

God gives comfort to all translation team members and consultants saying in Isaiah 55:11, “so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”

By following sign language Bible translation common principles and best practices, Deaf people globally can trust the authoritative and reliable Scriptures within their Deaf communities.