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International Day of Sign Languages

“If you really valued (loved) me, you could learn to sign. I cannot learn to hear.”[1]

First celebrated as part of the International Week of the Deaf in 2018, the United Nations marked 23 September the International Day of Sign Languages[2].

According to the Deaf Bible Society, more than 70 million people worldwide use sign language as their first or only language. Written language is a second language that requires extra effort for Deaf that can read.

More than 80 per cent of Deaf live in developing countries, using over 400 different sign languages[3]. Distinct from spoken languages, sign languages are natural languages in their own right. A natural language is one that has evolved naturally in humans through use and repetition without conscious planning. These can take different forms, such as speech or signing. While there is an international sign language, it has a limited vocabulary and is only used often while travelling or at international gatherings. Considered a pidgin (a mixture of 2 or more languages), it is simpler than natural sign languages.

Deaf people view themselves as members of a minority language group with their own distinct culture and experiences; they do not regard themselves as disabled. The difficulty of being deaf is not in the inability to hear, but the barrier to communicating with the dominant culture, especially when it comes to acquiring information.

Thanks to video and the internet, sharing the hope of Jesus with the Deaf is a growing global movement. Deaf Bibles are in video form; at present, at least 95 per cent of sign languages have no Bible translation[4].

TBSR - Romanian Sign Language

Wycliffe Singapore supports multiple sign language projects in Asia, one being the Romanian Sign Language project. The Romanian Deaf community largely cannot read the Romanian Scriptures. The religious ceremonies of hearing worship are also often confusing to them.

Through the support of Wycliffe Singapore’s R200 programme, since 2020, the Gospel (book of Mark) is being translated into Romanian Sign Language. The project team had previously translated 32 chronological Bible stories in 2019. The current project also aims to promote the use of these stories. Throughout the translation process, the project team and the members of the Deaf community involved also gain greater clarity on Scripture, and in turn, are impacted more deeply by the Word of God. Despite delays in checking the translation with the Deaf community due to the pandemic, the team expects to complete translating the Gospel of Mark in 2022.

Help us share God’s Word to deaf communities globally in their heart language. If you would like to find out more about supporting sign language projects, please contact us.

[1] From a Deaf person


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