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June 11, 2003

Bible being translated into Japanese sign language

From: Japan Today, Japan - Jun 11, 2003

Miho Kaneko

YAMAGATA — Eiji Matsumoto, 40, is doing the world's first work of translating the whole of the New and Old testaments, totaling 2,000 pages in Japanese, into sign language for a 104-hour recording on videotapes and digital video disks (DVDs).

Matsumoto, who hails from northeastern Yamagata Prefecture, became deaf at the age of 3 when he was struck by a high fever.

At a school for the deaf, he was taught how to lip read and pretended to understand what people said, even if he had not understood.

"I was ashamed of using sign language when I was young. I couldn't make myself understood as other people around me did," he said.

But when he heard a lecture about the "culture of the deaf," he began feeling a pride in sign language as an original culture.

"You can make yourself understood by using sign language even if you are in a noisy place or far away from other people. What's important for the deaf is pride," Matsumoto said.

Matsumoto is now a pastor at a church in the city of Yamagata, and is also active in the Japan Deaf Gospel Association in Tokyo to serve as a bridge between the deaf and churches.

For Matsumoto, the translation of the whole of the New and Old testaments into sign language is a long-cherished dream.

For many of those using sign language, it is their first language. The language's grammar is completely different from the grammar of the Japanese language. For them, reading books written in Japanese is as difficult as reading those written in English.

Therefore, he said, few Japanese deaf people have read the Bible, although deaf Christians in Japan number 3,000 to 4,000.

To allow deaf people to understand the translation, Matsumoto is paying great attention to detail, including the moves of the eyelashes and the direction of the eyes, in making the recordings.

Fifteen years will be required for the work to be completed, said Matsumoto, who lives with his wife, a son and a daughter. (Kyodo News)

© Japan Today