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USA (MNN) ― With the popularity of the new movie Avatar, you may be amazed that Bible translators may need to use that type of technology to aid in Bible translation. In fact, this technology could help people groups all over the world in some of the most difficult places for evangelism with deaf speakers/listeners…

So begins an article on Mission Network News about sign language translation. Click here if you want to read the article, but let me give you a synopsis of the project.

Have you ever considered the challenge of doing translation for deaf communities? We often talk at Wycliffe about the fact that we work with minority people groups. But consistently across the globe, the deaf within a minority people group have a dramatically lower number of Christians. The deaf are minorities among minorities, often isolated within their communities, their sign language showing little to no resemblance with either the language in their community… or any other sign language! Sign languages are entirely unique languages, and there are somewhere between 200 and 500 of them remaining.

How do you create a Bible in sign? Julia, one of Wycliffe’s sign language surveyors, says while most people use sound to communicate, the deaf listen differently. “Signed languages across the world are unique. They’re visual languages. And so they’re three dimensional and very expressive in ways that oral and spoken languages can’t even dream of.” Printed Bibles in sign would be a tough assignment. Video seems the best alternative then, but what if you choose the wrong person to do the signing and step deep into the politics of a language community? Needless to say, the challenges of sign languages are complex.

The answer is avatars. With an animated sign language speaker, you can easily make it a man or a woman, change the skin tone or model it after a specific leader, in the same way you try to set up your Mii character on your Wii system. How do they do it? Check out this article to hear about a project to put the Christmas story in Spanish Sign Language.

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