16 May 2009

I found a most intriguing book when I was shelf-reading (a most un-intriguing task): The New Testament English Version for the Deaf. It was translated directly from the Greek into English that is more compatible with the syntax and thought patterns of the deaf. To illustrate, here is a passage from Romans 3:

But God has a way to make people right without the law. And God has now shown us that new way. The law and the prophets told us about this new way. God makes people right through their faith in Jesus Christ. God does this for all people who believe in Christ. All people are the same. All people have sinned and are not good enough for God's glory. People are made right with God by his grace (kindness). This is a free gift. (21-24)

Notice the short, strong sentences. When I visited Deaf churches a few years ago, I was struck by the strong phrasing and constant repetition used by the preachers as they taught their congregations the Word of God (as a fledgling student of ASL, I was certainly grateful!). Such techniques may sound awkward and elementary in written English, but in signed language, it makes sense and really is beautiful. I appreciate how the editors of this version of the Bible were mindful of that in bridging the two languages.*

*I think that some hearing people assume that sign language is simply English conveyed through gesture; ASL is, however, a completely different language with its own grammar, idioms, dialects (yes, dialects; experienced signers can tell which region a signer is from based on his or her accent). Thus most deaf/Deaf Americans are at least bilingual.

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