At the end of September 2018, Jehovah’s Witnesses in Rwanda reached a milestone in their efforts to share the Bible’s message in the languages of their branch territory: the inauguration of translation work into Rwandan Sign Language (RWS). These efforts will benefit some 113 deaf brothers and sisters in Rwanda and will better equip publishers to preach to the over 30,000 deaf and hard-of-hearing people in the country.
The RWS translation team has translated the brochure Listen to God and Live Forever, the short video Why Study the Bible?, and most of the tracts that are part of our Teaching Toolbox. These publications will be made available on our official website in the coming weeks.
The RWS translation team works in a facility that is just a five-minute walk from the Rwanda branch office in Kigali. The team consists of two brothers, one of whom is deaf, and two sisters. Each member of the translation team is proficient in sign language and completed a four-week-long training course designed to assist them in learning the principles of translation.
One of the RWS translators, Rwakibibi Jean Pierre, explains why sign language presents obstacles not present when translating into a language that has a written alphabet: “Deaf people communicate ideas visually by using their hands and facial expressions, so sign-language translators translate text to video by employing a special technique called idea mapping. Using a whiteboard, we convert the English text into drawings that act as a guide as we express the ideas of the original text in sign language. To ensure the clarity and accuracy of the finished product, an outside panel of deaf Witnesses reviews the translated materials and offers feedback.”
Mr. Augustin Munyangeyo, board chairman of the Rwanda National Union of the Deaf, a national nongovernmental organization that advocates for the rights of deaf Rwandans, comments on the Witnesses’ RWS translation work: “We deeply commend Jehovah’s Witnesses for providing religious education using the Bible and videos prepared in Rwandan Sign Language.”
To date, Jehovah’s Witnesses translate into over 90 sign languages worldwide, and have produced a free app, JW Library Sign Language®, that also allows users to access Bible-based publications in more than 90 sign languages. The availability of these many sign-language publications assists our brothers and sisters worldwide to declare the good news “to every nation and tribe and language and people.”—Revelation 14:6, footnote.