International (MNN) — Often found in U.S. news headlines, terms like “gender gap” and “wealth gap” describe inequality in opportunities and income. Did you know there’s a “language gap,” too?
Andriea Vigil is an American Sign Language interpreter working with Deaf Bible Society. She says there’s an inequality between spoken and signed languages. “We need to acknowledge that there has been this elevation of… certain languages as superior,” Vigil states.
“There are so many translations of the Bible in English… [yet] there’s not one completed Bible translation – Old Testament and New Testament – in a sign language.”
Recognizing a global “language gap”
The world’s 70 million Deaf people use approximately 400 different sign languages. Roughly 30 of those sign languages have Scripture portions, and only American Sign Language has a complete New Testament.
A traditional text-based Bible isn’t enough to meet Deaf needs. “Written Scriptures – in any language – are not fully accessible to those Deaf communities,” Vigil explains.
Some Deaf are completely fluent in English or another majority language and they can read and write well. However, on a global scale, this is often the exception rather than the norm, and it does not replace a Deaf person’s heart language – sign.
“One common misconception…is based on the assumption that Deaf people can read and the Gospel’s fully accessible to them. That’s just completely false,” Vigil says.
“Any Christian from any language [who] knows God – they know Him because God speaks their language.”
Deaf Bible Society provides free access to Bible translations by video in 25+ sign languages. It also raises awareness of Deaf needs in the global “hearing” community. Vigil says it’s a great resource for those wanting to learn more about sign language Bible translation.
“Deaf Bible Society – just going on to their website and reading all the content there is a great starting place to get a clear picture of why this is such a big deal,” she states.