Recently, one of my colleagues whose wife trained as a teacher the deaf, explained to me why we are bothering to translate the Bible into sign languages when deaf people can read written languages too in most cases. His wife's answer when he asked that question was that sign language is not a flat linear language like written and spoken languages are - it's a performance taking place in front of the person, with their hands as the actors, and their head and body as the set and the props. I found that very interesting.
I found out a few years ago that British Sign Lanuage (BSL) is a separate language to English, and it puts words in different orders to the way we do. The person who told me this gave me an example where they said, in sign language, "I sold my baby carrots". In BSL the adjective (baby) follows the noun (carrot), so when she said this there was a gasp of horror when she said "I sold my baby..." and a smile of recognition when they realised what she meant, even though she said it wrongly.
Another of my colleagues is exploring ways to help over 40 signed language communities who don't have the Bible in their language. I haven't spoken to him recently about it, but when I did a while back it sounded like it was using some cool stuff. I'll find out more, but I thought I'd get this entry up now. There's an article in our magazine about it.
tags: sign language