A sign language Bible is God’s Word translated from either written or spoken form into the unique sign language used by a specific Deaf community. This is done by following established translation principles and recording the sign language Bible translation in video format. A sign language Bible is a video Bible a Deaf person can watch and see God’s Word in their sign language.
Sign language Bibles typically follow two versions. Chronological Bible Translation (CBT) structures Bible content by stories, such as the Creation Story. A Bookby- Book (BBB) sign language Bible is structured by the traditional chapter and verse breaks. CBT and BBB are not word-for-word translations, because the structure of sign languages is different from the structure of hearing languages that are spoken.
The sign language Bible translation process follows a similar methodology as a written language translation— only the rewrites and drafts are reshoots, as video is the medium for capturing the visual language of the Deaf. The general steps for translating the Bible into a sign language include:
Step 1, Exegesis and First Video Draft, is when the translation team works with selected Deaf people from a community to study a particular Scripture. This involves understanding the passage in its context, as well as gathering information from the original languages, history, culture, and other key information to develop a first video.Draft.
Step 2, Team Check, is when the team reviews the content and identifies mistakes and things that are unclear. This often requires a new set of eyes on the content to double check the work.
Step 3, Edit and Reshoot, corrects the errors found in Step 2. Content is adjusted and reshot. Unlike written translations, in sign language translations the signers often need to memorize long passages of Scripture to capture it on film in “one-go.”
Step 4, Community Testing, involves showing the current video draft to the Deaf community, asking questions, and inviting feedback to see what needs to be improved. The translation team selects people from the Deaf community to participate. These are people who are not involved in the translation and represent various ages, denominations, educational backgrounds, and levels of biblical knowledge.
Step 5, Review, is when the translation team discusses the feedback received during Community Testing and what needs to be changed in the video draft.
Step 6, Consultant Check, occurs simultaneously with Step 5, but the team is receiving and incorporating feedback from a sign languages translation consultant. While the Deaf community helps with naturalness, clarity, and acceptability, the consultant’s role is to ensure the translation remains faithful to the Scriptures.
Step 7, Revise, Edit and Reshoot, incorporates the feedback and changes to produce another video draft for review. Steps 1 through 7 can repeat multiple times for a particular passage of Scripture, and a translation team can have different passages occurring at different stages in the translation process.
Step 8, Consultant Approval, finally happens when the translation team and the translation consultant are satisfied with the quality of a draft. The consultant approves the translation, and the team creates a final version for publication.
Sign language Bible content can be published bit by bit as the translation project moves along. The Deaf community doesn’t have to wait until an entire New Testament or Bible is complete. Newly completed sign language Bible content is placed on our Deaf Bible platform and accessed via the Deaf Bible app and Deaf Bible website. For Chronological Bible Translation (CBT) projects, micro SD card distribution will occur once all of the stories in a set are completed.