Today I was attending my university’s Chapel service when I was able to observe a fascinating way that ASL can create a compelling visual representation of a concept.
The speaker was discussing Mark 1:10-13. At one point he particularly referenced one of the words in verse 12, which reads, “At once the Spirit sent Him out into the wilderness.” (New International Version)
The speaker looked at the particular verb in Greek that has been translated “sent out”, which is actually the word “εκβαλλει“- pronounced ekballo. This verb literally means to cast out or compel by force.
The accompanying explanation for this linguistic analysis was interesting to watch. When the interpreter signed the original verse, “sent out” was signed with a fairly common motion of the dominant hand flicking out from the top of the non-dominant one. However, as the original meaning of the verb was explained, the interpreter’s sign changed to a motion of a forceful throwing aside.
The visual reinforcement of the change in verbal connotation was fascinating to me to watch. While translating the Greek word required the speaker to make a rather detailed explanation and find the closest word approximation he could, the interpreter’s motions captured the meaning in a simple, yet incredibly powerful, gesture.
This is one of the most intriguing things I have found true of ASL. By nature, sign language is very direct, concise, and honest, and it also can say in one sign what a speaker may require an entire sentence to explain.