As described here, written language is a second language to the Deaf. Sign language is their heart language.

Yet, among the estimated 350+ sign languages worldwide, not one has a complete Bible translation. Only one sign language (American Sign Language) has the complete New Testament. A vast majority of these sign languages do not have a single verse.

Without God's Word in your heart language, how can you come to know Christ and learn to follow Him? Furthermore, how can you lead others to Christ, disciple them, or pastor a church?

DOOR discovered this dilemma while working in the field. DOOR began as a ministry to train Deaf evangelists, teachers, and leaders among every sign language of the world. But, we quickly discovered that training is not enough if Deaf believers don't have God's Word as a resource.

Wilson Kenda sings in Kenyan Sign Language during a Sunday morning church service.

DOOR translation staff Jared Omondi, Simon Ngigi, and Zablon Kengara review a portion of translated scripture and talk about it.

Our Solution

DOOR began work in sign language Bible translation in 2006. Since then, we have worked with teams from 16 language groups, with more translation projects beginning each year. Take a look at some of that work at DeafBibles.com. These translations are authorized Scripture, just as the New International Version or English Standard Version are.

DOOR is a member of the Forum of Bible Agencies International and the Wycliffe Global Alliance, and is one of only several international organizations worldwide producing published content in sign languages.

Methodology

Take a look at how the the translation process works, or check out our video "Scripture Translation."

The process begins with recruiting a team of Deaf nationals. This recruitment is done in coordination with local Deaf Christian leaders (if there are any) and hearing organizations. The recruited translation team typically consists of five members:

  • Three people who are excellent story tellers (these will be trained to sign the translations on video)
  • One person who can learn to use a computer well (this person will become the video editor)
  • One person with skills in reading written text and teaching or explaining concepts well (this person will facilitate the translation process itself)

Once the translation team is recruited, DOOR leaders train the team in the translation principles and technological know-how to begin translation work. This training is typically done by senior staff, who themselves have experienced the translation process by translating portions of the Bible into their own sign languages.

How do Deaf people translate the Bible if they struggle with understanding written text? In addition to the help of the team member who can read well, translation teams use other sign languages as source texts. These sign language translations have nuances already worked out that written texts are often silent about (e.g., shapes of objects, direction of action, emotions of Bible characters). Having source texts in sign language can cut the translation process time in half.

The translation team also works with translation consultants and Consultants-in-Training (CITs), who know both Greek and Hebrew, and can compare the proposed translation with the original languages.

Once a translation is discussed, the translation is recorded on video in front of a green screen. This recording is then checked by a consultant-in-training for exegetical and linguistic accuracy. Any errors or unclear passages are re-recorded until all are satisfied that the translation is clear, accurate, natural, and acceptable (CANA).

Once the translation is recorded on video, the editor uses Final Cut Pro X to underlay graphics in the background for better comprehension. These graphics are developed by DOOR's Deaf artists, and the artwork is also exegetically checked for accuracy.

The finished translations are published in a number of formats that make them accessible to local Deaf communities. Currently, these technologies include producing DVDs, microSD cards, flash drives, and mobile apps, as well as uploading the files directly to the Internet. We are very grateful for our partners, Deaf Bible Society, and their assistance with Scripture distribution in these various ways.