Nathan Boyce and Dr. Christopher Wakeland, University Accessibility Center
There are over ten missions in the Church among Russian speakers. The largest group is in Kiev, where the first deaf branch in the former Soviet Union was formed. There are around sixty deaf members there. Since many words used commonly in the Church are not used commonly outside of it, deaf people have had to make up their own signs for these new words. Many words have no signs and are spelled. Several similarly written, but different-meaning words are given the same sign. This results from members in isolated cities not thinking up the same signs.
The proposed project was to create a glossary of commonly used LDS church terms in Russian sign language, based mostly on the sign used among the largest group of LDS deaf Russians, in Kiev, in order to present a unified system of Church signs for all deaf people in Russian speaking countries. This would help establish unity and cohesiveness among the deaf. It would increase the ability of deaf members to converse with each other about the Gospel. They would have a consistent vocabulary, which would make it easier for them to translate and understand talks and lessons.
Besides the benefit this would provide to deaf people, it would also greatly benefit leaders, missionaries, translators, and other members who want to learn sign language. Right now there is no such tool for learning sign language. Often, deaf people are interested in the Gospel, but missionaries do not know their language and, hence, either cannot teach them or cannot teach them efficiently—through a translator or by letting them read the discussions.
Such glossaries for the Church already exist in American, British, and Japanese sign languages. Currently, the Church is working on the completion of glossaries in Spanish and Korean sign languages. The Church’s approval process is understandably very thorough and, thus, the Russian glossary is still awaiting approval.
Most of the work on this glossary will be done with the aid of the Church and its resources. A few preliminary steps have been completed, however. A packet containing an explanation of the project and a glossary rough draft including signs for a few words and the Russian alphabet was sent to the Church around six months ago. A tentative list of words has been chosen. Committees composed of Russian sign experts have been proposed in both Provo and Kiev.
This project will be completed in the near future. The Church has its own timetable and does things that are deemed necessary. There is a considerable Russian deaf population and the Church will certainly respond to the demand in the coming years. Those that are working on the project now hope to get approval, agree on signs, and get to the Ukraine to shoot the glossary within the next year.