Vision Document (March 2010)


Language, looking and seeing are connected with each other. God’s greatness is the most visible when we have daily access to His words in our heart language. From His words our minds are fed, among other things. This document describes the vision and gives a proposal for a Bible translation project in Dutch Sign Language (Sign Language of the Netherlands) (NGT).  For most Deaf people in the Netherlands, NGT is the language of their heart. This language gives them the most natural access to God’s heart.


Ultimate goal & impact:


Deaf people who use Dutch Sign Language will have the Bible available to them in the language of their heart to be used for both personal growth as well as the proclamation of the gospel.

Deaf people will use the Dutch Sign Language Bible to make God's grace visible in their own lives so that others in the Deaf community can be reached with the gospel of grace. A directly connected result will be the production of other Dutch Sign Language materials to make the gospel accessible to the Deaf.


Introductory information


Information offered in our heart language penetrates more to the heart and sticks with us better than information that comes to us in a second or third language.


It is difficult to say exactly how many Deaf people are in the Netherlands. Dovenschap, the organization in the Netherlands that represents the interests of Deaf people, says that they represent 15,000 Deaf adults.


95% of Deaf children do not learn their ‘mother tongue’ from their mother. They grow up in a family with hearing parents and hearing siblings. They learn sign language through interaction with Deaf peers and Deaf adults in places such as a school for the Deaf. Sign Language is the only language that is completely accessible to Deaf children, teenagers and adults.


Deaf people who have sign language as their first language, can have limited reading skills in a second language. Their vocabulary in the second language would be more limited. This can result in problems with comprehension of written texts such as the Bible  (Lombaard & Naudé, 20051 Complex processes take place in the mind of the reader during the reading  of a text. These processes make it possible for a reader to understand the text. Deaf people store information visually in their brains and not in words (Marshark, 1997.2 It appears, based on this information, that, for both skilled and less skilled readers, sign language gives access to information in a different way than a written text. Neville et al.(1998)3 also shows that the specific processing method of visual languages determines the organization of language systems in the brain. This is one of the reasons for the creation of a Bible translation in a visual language.


Dutch Sign Language is a natural and fully legitimate language in its own right with its own lexicon and grammar. This grammar is not based on the grammar of spoken Dutch. In sign language, information is expressed not only through the hands (manually) but also the face and body language (non-manually). In this way, information can be simultaneously communicated. Sign Language is a visual-manual language and has therefore a different modality than spoken languages, languages with an oral-auditory modality.


In April and May 2008 the Dutch Sign Language Bible work group conducted a written survey.   The goal of this survey was to assess the need for a Bible translation in NGT. The survey was filled in by 63 people (34 men and 29 women), from various regions4. The majority of those surveyed were born deaf and use NGT.


Target group

Our vision is that the Bible translation in NGT will ultimately be available to Deaf sign language users for whom NGT is their heart language – for both those who already know the Lord Jesus and those who don’t know Him yet.



A number of possible uses of the NGT translation are:


  • Use in NGT church services. These are services that are held completely in NGT. Singing, praying and preaching all take place in NGT. With the Bible translation available in NGT, the ‘Scripture reading’ could be projected making that part of the service also accessible to sign language users in their heart language. The necessity of repeatedly rethinking how a particular passage of Scripture should be translated would be eliminated.


  • Use during Bible study evenings. If someone would like to refer to a particular Bible text during a group discussion, it could be looked up on the DVD.


  • Personal use. During a train trip sign language users could see the Word of God on their iPods.



Making the Bible available in NGT with the goal of personal growth: a better understanding of God’s Word. The Bible plays a big role in the communication of the gospel for both other Christians as well as non-Christians: God’s Word can ‘speak’ for itself.

Expanded information about the organizational structure including profile sketches of team members, the translation process and information over the survey can be found by downloading the pdf version of the Vision Document. 


1 Lombaard, S. & Naudé J.A. (2005) - The translation of biblical texts into South African Sign Language

2  Marshark M. (1997) - Raising and educating a deaf child; a comprehensive guide to the choices, controversies, and decisions faced by parents and educators. Oxford University Press.

3 Neville,   H.J., Bavelier, D., Corina, D., Rauschecker, J., Karni, A., Lalwani, A., Braun, A., Clark, V., Jezzard, P., & Turner, R. (1998). Cerebral organizaton for language in deaf and hearing subjects: Biological constraints and effects of experience. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 95, 922-929. Referentie gevonden in: Tijsseling, C. (2006). Anders doof zijn. Van Tricht uitgeverij.

4 See Appendix II - Overview details in the complete vision document 



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