The Bible Society of South Africa recently began with the translation of an English Bible for the Deaf (EBD) for use in South Africa and throughout Africa where English is used. On Sunday, 14 August 2011, during the morning service at the De la Bat congregation in Bellville, this translation project was officially launched in the deaf community.
This translation, in deaf-oriented English, is aimed especially at people who were born deaf and those who use Sign language. Because people learn spoken language primarily through imitation and verbal communication, people who are born deaf have specific language and reading needs.
For most deaf people, Sign language is their mother tongue and they would no doubt prefer a visual Bible in the Sign language they understand. Such a project, however, is not feasible. Various factors led to the decision to undertake a written Bible for the Deaf in English instead. Firstly, to create a visual Bible would be an exceedingly expensive project because 12 different Sign languages have been documented in South Africa alone and at least 150 in Africa. If a visual Bible had been identified as the solution, hundreds of different projects would have had to have been undertaken. A further problem is that the Bible text does not always lend itself to the use of Sign language. It is difficult then to make the complete text accessible to the Deaf through the visual medium.
Some countries have started with such a visual Bible, but nowhere in the world has the project been completed.
Many schools for the Deaf in South Africa and Africa use English as the medium of instruction, but unfortunately the existing Bible translations are difficult for most deaf people to understand and this can easily cause confusion. Research shows that the reading proficiency of most deaf adults in South Africa is comparable to that of 8 to 10 year-old children who hear. Only a small percentage of deaf learners ever complete Grade 12.
This Bible then will be translated so that the majority of deaf people who receive their education in English will understand it. A limited vocabulary as well as many footnotes and illustrations will be used to explain certain concepts in the text.
“The Bible Society launched a Bible for the Deaf in Afrikaans in 2008. This translation was successful in the Afrikaans-speaking deaf community and we believe that a similar English translation will make the Word of God accessible to many more deaf people in our own country as well as throughout Africa,” says Rev Gerrit Kritzinger, Chief Executive Officer of the Bible Society of South Africa.
The project leader and exegete for the EBD translation project is Dr Rocco Hough, a specialist in the area of language use for the Deaf. Prof Bart Oberholzer will serve as source language expert and Mr Christopher Mongezi Galada, a deaf person, will collaborate as translator. An English language expert will be involved in the project as well as a number of deaf people in South Africa and Africa who will, as readers, test the comprehensibility of translation.
~ 11 August 2011~