The translation of biblical texts into South African Sign Language

  • Susan Lombaard Unit of Language Management, University of the Free State, PO Box 339, Bloemfontein 9300
  • Jacobus A Naudé Afroasiatic Studies, Sign Language and Language Practice, University of the Free State, PO Box 339, Bloemfontein 9300


This article aims to prove that biblical texts in South African Sign Language (SASL) are more accessible than written or printed biblical texts for deaf-born South African people who use sign language as their first language. The study made use of the functionalist approach in translation to translate six parts from the Bible into SASL. Native signers were used as translators with the assistance of hearing specialists in the fields of religion and translation studies. The translations were done from the original Hebrew and Greek texts into SASL. The content of the video with the biblical texts in SASL, as well as the level of understanding of the texts, was evaluated by members of the Deaf Community of South Africa by means of an empirical study done in the Western Cape, Kwazulu-Natal, Gauteng, the Northern Cape and the Free State. The results of the empirical study proved that the signed parts from the Bible were more accessible for culturally deaf people than the written counterparts. Results from the study also indicated how a signed Bible should look. From the study the conclusion can also be made that there is a need within the Deaf Community of South Africa for a Bible in SASL.

Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies 2007, 25(2): 141–152

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1727-9461
print ISSN: 1607-3614