Sweet and Sour


Translation work continues and the team is growing well as a team and in their work.  It’s a “sweet spot” to be in (though yes, funding is still a major concern.)  Colossians was released the end of March.  Esther (draft four) is progressing well, and John has been started.  Hori (a Deaf Translation Consultant in training) is learning his job well.  Mr. Yamada (hearing), a Wycliffe member who trained with SIL in the Philippines, and has been with ViBi for a couple of years now, is also well on his way to qualifying as a Sign Language translation consultant. The two of them did all of the post-production checking for Colossians, and are now proceeding on Esther and John.  Our new challenge is to multiply this not just in Japan but throughout Asia and the Pacific.  Please keep praying as we work hard to continue to improve our standard and also look to the wider area around us.  It is a huge privilege to be part of a team working to bring the Living Word to an ever more living Deaf community.

I am very thankful for linguistics training (see below for “even more details”). Most sign languages in this part of the world have not been studied at all, and the amount of work remaining for Bible translation to flourish in the rest of Asia is staggering.  As many of you remember I studied at SIL the summers of 2006 and 2007.  Increased contact with SIL led to training as a translation consultant, which further benefited our translation. That’s what enabled me to help train Hori and others as a Deaf translation consultants. But getting the credential as a translation consultant was based on the fact that I was almost finished with my MA–just needed to write the thesis. Which brings us to a big prayer request.  I need to write that final paper.  The focus of my studies has been to move our translation beyond words and sentences to the place where the larger chunks of discourse hangs together, and the thoughts of the Bible writers reach Japanese Deaf people clearly and naturally. This is the next step forward for ViBi, and if we can figure it out here in Japan, it could clear out some major obstacles facing start-up projects throughout Asia and the Pacific.

Please pray fervently for the details of this to work out.  I need your help. Even researchers need miracles, and with my inexperience, I need more than my share. Pray especially for an important meeting May 10.  (Again there are even more details below.)

Even More Details

I’m analyzing natural Deaf signing to learn how Deaf people actually use sign language (not just what is “allowed” in JSL grammar). Since sign language is the world around me you’d think I would have lots of data to work off of.  It doesn’t work that way. First, to really analyze it well, you have to have it on video. But that involves recording live human subjects signing, and the University’s Institutional Review Board has a plethora of rules, in addition to U.S. law, to prevent abuse of live human subjects. I am finally cleared to gather my own data, but after that, each word has to be separated out, and glossed (meanings written out in Japanese or English), clauses and sentences marked, and an accurate translation, all this input into a notation software called ELAN. And that’s just the starting point. The real work starts after all of that is done. I did this for my first analysis, and I know how long it takes.  I learned a ton about sign language, and it helped the translation project, but it also took ages to do.

I need to find a faster way. My goal is(was?) to test my theories against fresh data sets, and write everything up in a first draft by May 31, in order to defend this summer in July. If I don’t find data glossed and ready to analyze, it won’t happen. So, pray. May 10 I meet someone who may have access to usable data.


About Mark and Mary Esther Penner

Mark works as an adviser and resource to a Japanese Sign Language Bible translation project that plays a key role in the worldwide sign language Bible translation movement. Mary Esther founded a non-profit organization that partners with local communities and organizations to collect, refurbish and send wheelchairs throughout Asia.
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2 Responses to Sweet and Sour

  1. Exciting stuff !!! Thanks for taking the time to explain how sign language is a full on language experience all of its own … it really helps me understand what you are about, and what your ministry is much more deeply about. praying for supernatural wisdom, understanding, and knowledge as you work on your doctoral thesis. I am excited for you!!

  2. I wish it was a doctoral thesis. After all these years, you would think . . . but no, it’s just an MA. I’ve been mostly doing other stuff since 2008, and each year it becomes “next year.” Now it is time, both for the translation project and for the university.

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