How can Mark work with the Thai SL translation?

Click for Video on Thai Sign Language Project

]Short answer:  With a lot of help.
Longer answer:

Dinner story #1
We were having dinner at a nice restaurant with white linen tablecloths and ornate table-settings, but I (Mary Esther) was stealing glances at my friend’s fingernails.  I’d not seen her for quite a while, and now with her fork poised at her mouth before taking a bite I saw finger clubbing.

Finger clubbing?  I didn’t set out to notice but the fingernail deformity was severe enough my nursing background just saw it.  I tried to stay engaged in the conversation and not to go through the mental check list of potential causes–cardiac? pulmonary?  Does she know she might have a real problem?  Half way through the meal she mentioned her cardiologist and then I relaxed knowing she was receiving treatment.  Driving home I mentioned the clubbing to Mark.  He saw nothing.  Nothing? Nope, didn’t notice at all.  For reals.  Didn’t even know what finger clubbing was.

Dinner story #2
We were having supper at home with a linguist friend.  The food was okay and the conversation was fun until Mark interrupted and said, “Did you hear that?”  What?  Did I notice?  Notice what?  How the verb was used in that relative clause, an anomaly.  Nope, didn’t notice.  For reals.  Though I know what a verb is, and what a relative clause is, nothing jumped out at me.  But my husband couldn’t help himself and he and the linguist friend spent the next half hour discussing various deviations of theoretical linguistic patterns.

When we travel to countries where we don’t know the language Mark sees/hears patterns in the language.  Me?  I’m just trying to remember how to say “hello” and “where is the bathroom?”

You smile because you understand.  You too have gifting and training in some spheres and other areas where you don’t.

So yes, JSL and ThaiSL (Japanese Sign Language and Thai Sign Language) are different.  But for linguists or someone with a decent language aptitude, noticing how languages function or learning another language is just part of who they are.  They truly can’t help themselves.

But maybe the most germane idea is that Mark doesn’t do the translating.  Not even in Japan.  Since he is not a native speaker (it wasn’t a language he used  growing up) translation protocol says he will not translate.  So then, what does he do?  He checks.

Which brings us to the real question–How can you check if you don’t know the language?6EF7AC64-CA3A-40A1-A85D-04CBAE8F8AB3

1-How sign language operates:
It helps that in many sign languages there are some similarities in the use of the space in front of the signer*,  the use of face,** and classifiers.***  The actual manual signs, however, are almost all different between JSL and ThaiSL.

2-Community checking with a good interpreter:
When Mark attends a community comprehension check he knows what the text should say/mean.  If the feedback from those viewing the translation matches the text, all is well. If not, they revise. For instance, they showed Mark 11 to the Deaf people who had gathered–people who had not heard the story before.  After watching they re-told the narrative.  There seemed to be confusion as to what a “colt” was.  And they weren’t sure where the animal was found (“in the street” according to v 5.)  So there were two corrections that needed to be made.  There were a total of 50 corrections that day.

3-A talented Consultant-in-Training:
Can Mark do this work alone?  Absolutely not.  He relies on the team, and the better they get at translating, the fewer errors they make, and the easier Mark’s work is.  They have a Consultant in Training who works with the team to translate.  She knows Thai, ThaiSL, and English, and is very good at what she does.  During the translation process she texts or Skypes with Mark about questions they have on the passage.  She serves as interpreter for Mark while he is there checking the translation.  Also, a Deaf person on the team is a great communicator and finds ways to tell Mark what he needs to know and understands what Mark is trying to say.  And yes, sometimes they resort to drawing pictures.

Most of the translation work is done without Mark present.  He is available from Japan to give input on difficult translation issues, giving ideas on how things might be done, or done better, and advising the Consultant in Training. As the team gets better, his job gets easier. By the time he sees their work now, most of the easy problems are gone. The ultimate goal is to get the team on the ground to the place where they can handle it all.

Mark watches Deaf signing ThaiSL in various contexts; during informal conversation, church services, consultations, allowing him to see patterns he can expect to find in the translation.  So he does pick up some ThaiSL while there (the JSL team complains that when he returns he is throwing ThaiSL into his JSL.) But while checking he has to trust that since the team knows ThaiSL far better than he, if they say it communicates then it does, even if it looks “wrong” to him.

Thank you for praying.  The team reached their objectives for the 10 days Mark was there.  He flew back to Tokyo and is headed to the JSL office to look at the current draft of Luke.

*Semantics and pragmatics 2000 Metaphors in American Sign Language.  page 412
Wicox, Phyllis Perrin
Washington, DC: Gallaudet University Press.
Sarah F. Taub, Washington, DC (USA)
Check out # 6. Typological perspective: Use of sign space across sign languages

**Front Psychol. 2013; 4: 115.
Published online 2013 Mar 11. doi:  10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00115
PMCID: PMC3593340  Facial Expressions, Emotions, and Sign Languages
Eeva A. Elliott1,* and  Arthur M. Jacobs1,2

*** A definition:   “Classifiers are designated handshapes and/or rule-grounded body pantomime used to represent nouns and verbs. The purpose of the classifier is to provide additional information about nouns and verbs such as: location, kind of action, size, shape and manner. ”
Taken from Seattle Central College What, When and How to use ASL Classifiers.

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Adoniram Judson and 12 volunteers from Tokyo

Elementary boarding at the missionary kids school meant many things.  One was going to bed listening to missionary stories over the intercom system at night.  And one of those stories was of Adoniram Judson (1788-1850), America’s first foreign missionary  to far away Burma.

Monday, 12 volunteers from Wheelchairs of Hope traveled to Myanmar, some from the church and some not.  They went there to give 10 refurbished wheelchairs to pastors and a Christian pediatrician who runs a PT program in Yangon.

Please pray:
For physical health and safety.
For ease going through customs and immigration with the ten wheelchairs and other gifts for the orphanage..
For the opportunity of spending 5 days together as a team, to live and speak as servants of Jesus.
For time with various pastors, special ed. school, doctors, orphanage, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, elder care home, Hansen disease patient facility

Wheelchairs, and Hope.  Those are the gifts we want to share.

Learn more about Wheelchairs of Hope here

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Year-end Report

Japanese Sign Language Bible translation

“I know Luke 2 might not be released before this year’s Christmas celebration, but can I use a pre-publication draft? I was really hoping to preach from it.” After waiting nearly seven years to get the “other half” of the Christmas story in his language, Pastor Matsumoto did get Luke 2 in time for Christmas. What a present! Can you imagine struggling through the Christmas story in a foreign language year after year?

Thank you! You are the ones who cared enough to pray, give financially, work, or all of the above. With your support, the Japanese Sign Language Bible translation project made three big changes. First, they hired Mr. Terasawa as a translator this May; the first staffing increase since 2009. Because of this additional translator, 300,000 Japanese Deaf people had the full Christmas story this year. Also, because the project wants a Christian “face” on the video, he translated it all the way to the final draft, but someone else signed it on camera. This, too, has never been done before, and was a big success. The third “new thing” is that we disguised the signer with make-up. From here on, people won’t be seeing “Uiko’s translation,” or “Minamida’s translation,” but “JSL Bible’s translation.”

But it wasn’t just Christmas and Luke. In Japan, the New Year celebration is central. The old passes, the new is born—death and resurrection; a hint of redemption. In Leviticus too, the lamb dies, and the community is put right, with God and with each other. Uiko, the project director, gave a good portion of the year to translating Leviticus 1-14. As she did, she kept saying things like: “I never really understood _____ until now,” and “People need to know this!” Now, Japanese Deaf people will be able to access and learn from the first half of Leviticus. Redemption and relationship in all its nitty gritty gory glory. So again, we say thank you.

We also say “please.” Because this year, we need you more than ever. In 2017, we tackle the rest of Leviticus and the rest of Luke, and are looking to hire a second video editor as we move toward two full translation teams. Please pray!

Thai Sign Language Bible translation

Last year brought another expansion—Mark made three trips to Thailand to serve as the consultant for a Bible translation project there. In February, he worked with the Thai Bible Society’s Deaf team on Mark 1-2. This team was brand new–they had just started working together in December. Even so, they were able to finish these two chapters and publish in time for a big event in March. In May, they worked on Mark 3-6, also building systems that would lead to faster, better translation work. On the September/October trip, they tackled Mark 7-10, and are now finishing up the final recordings. Through the year, we’ve worked out a good rhythm of on-site consulting and off-site checking.

In 2017, they aim to finish Mark and start in on Acts. But they face challenges. A key resource person is leaving to get more schooling in July. Pray that the team will find a new exegetical expert; someone who can communicate well in Thai Sign Language, get them the Bible knowledge that they need, and check their work without influencing the integrity of their signing.

Wheelchairs of Hope

Our son Daniel has received a new wheelchair since we wrote our last annual report.  To get this chair we attended appointments, made phone calls, talked to medical personnel, made more phone calls, waited, learned our request was approved, and then waited another 10 months for the chair to actually materialize.  It was a HUGE deal when Daniel was placed into the chair we had waited for so long.

By contrast, Wheelchairs of Hope sent 140 wheelchairs to people in other Asian countries. For many, this was their very first wheelchair–a lifetime of waiting.  We sent a 20 foot container to Cambodia, partnering with Cambodia Ministries for Christ and International Mine Clearance and Community Development.  Many of the recipients were amputees, victims of the landmines seeded during three decades of war.  Losing a limb usually impacts the more than the individual; it is often the parent working the fields or fishing at the river to feed their family who is injured.  We were thankful to partner with these organizations and to meet those receiving wheelchairs.  One young man had never been able to attend school, but missionaries had taught him to read and now he was enrolled in Bible classes, wanting to become a pastor, thrilled to be able to get out and about now with his wheelchair.

This month 12 volunteers from Wheelchairs of Hope will travel to Myanmar delivering wheelchairs to a pastor and Christian doctor who runs a special education program and physical therapy clinic for children.  We are delighted to be able to support them in their ministries.  Of the 12 going, about half are Christians.  We are glad for the opportunity to build stronger relationships with volunteers God sends to the project.

Later in the spring we will send another container to a government operated children’s hospital in Chiang Mai, Thailand.  Their wheelchair project is run by a man who grew up there as a missionary kid, and everyone of his workers is a short term missionary, many from Europe. One worker we met was a believer from Iran.  It was exciting to see how you in the US, we in Tokyo, brothers and sisters from Europe and even Iran, are all part of the Body together taking the news of Jesus to families in a government hospital in Thailand. We use refurbished wheelchairs as a tangible expression of what it means to take something used and worn and make it new.  Please pray that this will be the story for those receiving these wheelchairs.

Thank you for your financial and prayer support for us, the Deaf in Japan and Thailand, and those who are learning of Jesus because of a wheelchair.

For photos  and videos of these three projects, check out this link.   This is our Facebook ministry page. If you don’t have a Facebook account, you might have to ignore  some pleas to join up, but you can still see everything. If you’re already up on Facebook and want to keep up throughout the year, just hit the “like” button on our page.

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They Don’t Teach ADR in Seminary

We needed a sound proof room

So– 4 ski poles, 3 blankets, 2 cell phones, and a Penner perched on a plastic bucket in the shower stall—  perfect–we had our recording studio

Some of you prayed for Joseph and Ashley who gave two weeks of their time to come and record video footage of Japanese Deaf people telling their stories. Joseph is now making videos from this footage.

For obvious reasons sound was not an issue for most of the recording. Ironically, the location and time when we (Mark and Mary Esther) were interviewed, was the noisiest–with a loud speaker advertising a special lunch, music blaring from a sightseeing ferryboat that just docked, and a helicopter that seemed to come from nowhere and hovered overhead. This ambient noise proved too much so Joe asked if we could please re-do the voicing.  We needed to repeat (in a natural voice) what we had said during the interview, and this should be done in a “quiet room.”  Though our Tokyo apartment is above a store, less than one minute from a train station, we did think it rather quiet until we began recording.  Then even the refrigerator, ticking clock, and neighbors closing their doors, all seemed rather loud.
Our shower room, in the middle of the apartment, with rags stuffed in the exhaust vent and ski poles tenting various blankets to blunt the echo, and voila! We had our sound studio–pictured above.

We recorded our lines in roughly 30 takes.  They don’t teach ADR in seminary!

We can hardly wait for the videos to be finished so we can show them to you, and you can let us know what you think.

Meanwhile, please pray for Joseph and Ashley as they work on this important project. Pray for the details–artistic decisions, technical skill, equipment to function, their health and energy, and then pray for those who will be viewing these videos to grasp the import of the message.

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Luke 1-6 and Leviticus 1-14 are recorded!

498 times the camera started rolling and the signer began signing–114 of those were good takes–and in the end, 725 verses were captured.
Those are just numbers though. Four of the five days we were working until very late, and the amount of mental energy it took to process all that information on camera so many times with no mistakes is just incalculable.
Often the week after recording is slow-down time. But the team hardly missed a beat–everyone pitching in, working overtime to get Luke 1-2 available in time for Christmas, they dove into post-production.  Editing each good take, adding verse references to the top corner of the frame, adding our version of italics (an * for information that is clearly implied but not actually stated in the original text), and text for specialized vocabulary (names and technical words). After struggling with workflow and equipment alike, Luke 1-6 landed on the app December 19. For the first time ever, Japanese Deaf people would have the whole Christmas story in their language.  By Christmas Sunday.
Leviticus is now undergoing the same detailed care, and we should see it on the app before the new year.
PS Check out the JSL Bible project’s facebook page December 9 and 19 for some fun videos:
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Why Leviticus?

When she heard we had been questioned about our choice of books for translation, a friend wrote about her own experience:

Last year, my son, feeling perhaps  revengeful because of the extra Japanese homework I had given him, suddenly said to me, “I dare you to read Leviticus—in Japanese! Wahahaahahaha!!”  Purely to meet my son’s challenge, I set out to –gulp–get through the book of Leviticus in Japanese. I didn’t expect much from it, but ended up with a treasure.  Here’s what I picked up.

1. Details MATTER

Details matter to God.  Leviticus is almost painfully detailed. There’s always temptations to do less than the best when, if we meticulously do our best, people might not even notice or care.  But in Leviticus I get the picture of God with a magnifying glass inspecting our lives up close, and labeling what he finds for three categories:  a)dirty  b) clean / common , and c) HOLY.  I don’t want to fudge on any work done for God–he asks for my best.

2. Domestic life matters hugely

Domestic details matter to God. I did not calculate exact distribution, but of all the regulations in Leviticus, it seems to me  that a majority of the book is directly concerned with domestic life:  Keeping the body clean and disease-free, and the food clean, and the house clean —  why, not only does God notice all the monotonous, repetitive, neverending tasks of keeping bodies, house, and food clean, he really cares about these details or he would not have devoted so much of the torah to it. Wait, if details + domestic life matters so much to God, why that means —

3. Women’s work matters to God!

Domestic life is often women’s work–certainly this woman’s work.
As a housewife I was going through a “nothing I do matters” phase, and “even if I clean it well, it’ll soon be dirty again” complaints. It dawned on me half way through Leviticus that God was totally interested in all this unseen, forgetable, repetitive work I do to keep us clean and healthy.  He himself ordered such meticulous work!  Because people matter, and people’s well being matters. And God says through this book that my family is worth all this extra care. Even if no one thanks me, I can know that this stuff is important to God.  I had not expected to feel so validated by the book of Leviticus!

(Am I correct in my impression that Leviticus speaks more of what’s going on inside the house than outside? other than temple instructions maybe.)

oops, I’m falling asleep at the computer, so I leave more un-expounded upon for now. Until I can steal a moment again to finish this email, just be encouraged because Leviticus is full of blessing.

Love, A.

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Luke 2 in their own language for the very first time !

This week we are glad to be under studio lights again.  The Japanese Sign Language Bible translation project will record Leviticus 1-16 and Luke 1-6!  We are very excited.

For the first time ever,  the Japanese Deaf people will have Luke 2 in their own language!  Pastor Matsumoto is very happy and asked for an early draft so he could begin planning his Christmas message on the 25th based on Luke 2, a first for him and his church.

However, there are some obstacles.

Please pray for:

  • the on-camera signer is having some problems with a swollen eye and reaction to the make up
  • Mark and Hori to have the concentration and attention to detail necessary during this week as they check the signing as it is being recorded in the studio
  • the makeup artist–every day this week the make up/hair needs to be seamless
  • camera/tech/lighting man–the look needs to be seamless all week
  • the equipment to hold up

Rejoice with us:

  • the team is energized and excited.  When these portions are make available later this month the Japanese Deaf will have 26% of God’s Word in their own language!
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