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From:  Stuart Thiessen
Date:  Mon Apr 1, 2002  4:18 am
Subject:  Re: Questions about ASL Translation (was Re: Bible Work Started)

See comments below ....

----- Original Message -----
From: "Dan Parvaz"
Sent: Saturday, 30 March 2002 20:48
Subject: Re: Bible work started

<snipped section on prejudices, etc.>

Let me share some of my perspectives as one who has been keenly interested
in Bible translation as well as literacy issues in general.

> Actually, there are those of us who are *not* of Pastor Ron's particular
> brand of Christianity (i.e, not "fellow believers") who are still
> interested in his translation project, both for technical purposes and
> for the possible implications of this single written translation. So
> here are some questions:
> 1. The folks at Deaf Missions have been working on a translation of the
> Hebrew Bible and the Christian New Testament into what is sometimes
> pretty idiomatic ASL. While they have taken some liberties with the text
> (God in the person of Bob Alcorn creating the stars by blowing sparkly
> stuff into the heavens comes to mind), it is arguably done from the best
> original-language material we have (albeit via intermediate English
> texts). So why a translation from the King James Version, for Pete's
> sake?

Actually, I am in the process of trying to work with them and encourage them
to support a "transcription" of their video Bible. A member of our church
happens to be on their Board and so we will continue to work on this. I
think the key challenge is that Deaf Missions does not have any extra
resources to spend on a transcription of their video Bible for an unknown
number of readers (from their perspective). But I think it will come over
time as those who are interested in a written ASL Bible express their
interest in seeing one. If any on the list are interested in working with
me to transcribe, I would like to know that. It would help me in
communicating with them what kind of support they might have in the
transcription effort. Right now, it is just their Board member and I who
have expressed interest. I am trying to encourage some local interest here
so they can see some immediate interest.

I also see the written form helping to improve some areas where the
translation may be weak. I have also felt that a video translation
introduces personality issues when watching a person sign Scripture. I like
the way the written form can remove those personality issues and let us
grapple with the meaning of the text itself. A byproduct of the written
form would also make the video production a little smoother in my opinion.
I have noticed in some of the videos that the production is a little shaky
simply because they are using gloss to help the signer know what to sign
next. Again, this will come with time.

> 2. What will the structure of the translation teams (if any!) look like?
> Who will work on Quality Control, and to what extent will their biases
> be made clear (as in YOUR GOVERNMENT ESTABLISH for "Thy kingdom come")
> to those who will be the final consumers of the translation?

Generally, I would like to see this be done by people who have an
understanding of Greek and Hebrew at the least. In the deaf world, it is
rare to find someone with an understanding of the original languages and
ASL. However, that would be best. Also, there would need to be (as you
mention) a way to explaining theological and philosophical perspectives of
the translators. I would generally see that as a "notes" issue. Most
Bibles will put notes where there could be a different way to translate a
phrase or verse or where some explanation for 21st century readers would be
helpful. I see the same thing happening here. If the text is faithfully
produced, then I would see less need to worry about theological or
philosophical perspectives. On the other hand, if it is produced with an
agenda to promote one theological/philosophical perspective over another,
then that needs to be noted that certain passages are translated from that
theological/philosophical perspective.

> 3. What effect might this printed text have on freezing liturgical
> language based in Judeo/Christian scripture (e.g., the Lord's Prayer,
> the 23rd Psalm), and what will the procedure be for standardizing
> terminology and handling variant readings? Related to item 2: will there
> be any attempt, therefore, to make this an ecumenical effort?

Honestly, (while not a SW issue per se) I am also interested in seeing a
shift from "initialized religious signs" to signs/phrases which express the
meaning of the concept rather than some "made-up signs". Some are certainly
in the language to stay, but others could be improved. For example,
hallelujah is often signed PRAISE-CELEBRATE. But the Hebrew word actually
means "Praise YHWH" or "Praise the Lord". Hosanna is often signed CELEBRATE
or even PRAISE-CELEBRATE, but the Hebrew word actually means (as I
understand) "Save us". There are also significant theological terms--which
Paul uses in the book of Romans for example--which need to be properly
expressed as to the Greek context behind them. Another example is Jesus'
last words on the Cross: "It is finished!" In Greek, that is the same word
used to indicate that a debt has been paid in full. Simply signing "FINISH"
does not do justice to the Greek term. So I see that maybe the printed text
may cause us to re-examine some of our English-tainted signs and perhaps
find better ways of expressing the meaning so that it is understood.

As that discussion happens (which I hope happens), I can see the text
"freezing" as you put it for those who are liturgical in style. Some of
them may not welcome this kind of discussion, and prefer to keep the more
"English" type rendition they have had. Another question on my side is how
to deal with dialect differences in the written form. For example, I'm from
Iowa, and the few people from Michigan that I have met here have used more
different signs that I have seen in people from Nebraska or other nearby
states. That would be a challenge to decide what dialect of ASL takes
prominence when there are dialect differences (perhaps another case for

I don't have a problem with ecumenical efforts as along as we can let the
text say what it says without making the translation interpret the text.
Granted, some passages require some measure of interpretation to express it
properly. That's where an ecumenical effort will face its challenges. But
if all are committed to letting the text say what it says without imposing
21st century philosophical requirements, then I'm all for it.

> 4. It sounds cool: Open-source translation! Okay that wasn't a
> question -- so sue me.

As long as it expresses the actual meaning of the text, I am all for it!


Stuart Thiessen
Des Moines, IA

  Replies Author Date Size
6673 Re: Questions about ASL Translation (was Re: Bibl Dan Parvaz Mon  4/1/2002   4 KB
6674 Re: Questions about ASL Translation (was Re: Bibl Dan Parvaz Mon  4/1/2002   2 KB

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