Some sign language “interpreters” seem to speak with unknown “thumbs” (1 Cor. 14:13) in church. Deaf people negatively describe signing words only as “Words, words, words.” This kind of transliteration is often not clear. American Sign Language (ASL) interpreting is more than signing words. Interpreting means to explain the meaning or to make the meaning understandable. ASL interpreters sign meaning, not words.
Example: The word martyr in Spanish is mártir, in Serbian is мученик, and in Dutch is martelaar. However, in ASL (American Sign Language) spell, then sign the meaning (a person who is killed for his religious beliefs). In ASL: M-A-R-T-Y-R, (Left) Person believe religion strong // (Right) other person against (Left). (Point-left) Kill (Left).
Language – Translations of written/spoken languages can be examined by experts using grammar rules. The translator changes the words and the word order to match the new language, the translation is verified and completed.
Mode – Sign language interpreters change the message from a spoken/written mode into a visual/gestural mode. Changing modes requires interpretation. There are ASL grammar rules for eyebrow raises, mouth movements (called morphemes), body shift, eye gaze and more. Slight differences in these can greatly change the meaning.
Pray – Some Deaf people use Signed English. Others use ASL. Often Deaf groups are mixed with several language needs. Church interpreters must pray for wisdom and help to clearly communicate meaning, then rephrase and restructure English sentences into visual language easily understood by all. Ask the Lord for help. Do not sign using a theory or philosophy. Sign so the people in front of you will understand. If you want to interpret clearly, study, practice, and pray before you interpret (1 Cor. 14:13).