Deaf in Laos

Map Source:  Anonymous
People Name: Deaf
Country: Laos
10/40 Window: Yes
Population: 74,000
World Population: 48,206,860
Primary Language: Laos Sign Language
Primary Religion: Buddhism
Christian Adherents: 3.38 %
Evangelicals: 0.00 %
Scripture: Translation Needed
Online Audio NT: No
Jesus Film: No
Audio Recordings: No
People Cluster: Deaf
Affinity Bloc: Deaf
Progress Level:

Introduction / History

There are an estimated 40,000-60,000 deaf people living in the country of Laos. Most were born to hearing parents and therefore were not exposed to sign language during infancy or even early childhood, a critical time for the brain to naturally develop language ability. These deaf children do not have the opportunity to learn Laos Sign Language until they attend one of the schools for the deaf that are located in just a few cities such as Vientiane and Luang Prabang, two of the larger population centers in Laos. Sadly, only 2-3% of the deaf population ever receive this opportunity, and of those who do attend most drop out before the ninth grade. Of the 97% of deaf people in Laos who are unable to attend the specialized schools, most will remain languageless because a written language is very difficult to learn without the ability to hear. Most deaf students will only acquire a minimum of vocabulary words from the written language. This results in an acute sense of isolation from the hearing world of family and the local community.

Fortunately, there are a number of organizations dedicated to helping the deaf of Laos continue their education and develop vocational skills such as motorcycle and bicycle repair, weaving and cooking. Not all teachers are skilled communicators in Laos sign language as there is no specialized teacher training available for those who work with the deaf. Teachers will often use a blend of oral and total communication approaches depending on their level of proficiency.

What Are Their Beliefs?

Because Christianity is very much a minority worldview in the country there is little recognition of basic Christian concepts. About 3.7% of the population are considered Christian with 2.5% being evangelical.

There are hundreds of hearing congregations in Laos but only two for the deaf community.

There are two believing congregations using Laos Sign Language: one in Vientiane and the other in Luang Prabang.

What Are Their Needs?

Two of the greatest needs the deaf in Laos are early exposure to sign language and the opportunity to attend schools. One organization is helping to create dictionaries and educational materials, though much work remains.

There is no scripture in Laos Sign Language. When presented with the Gospel most Deaf find it confusing. And for those who are believers, they lack confidence in sharing the Gospel feeling that they have a limited understanding of it themselves. Although they desire to learn more about their faith there is no one to explain it to them in their language. They are eager to have a Bible translation in their language as well as Bible study materials they can access.

Any written or spoken language is very difficult for the deaf of Laos to acquire, so fluent bilingualism in not a realistic option except for a very few. Slightly more than 50% of the hearing population uses Lao as their first language with the remainder using ethnic minority languages.

There is an urgent need for the development of basic educational materials as well as a Bible translation. Pastoral training is also needed to expand understanding of scripture.

Text Source:   Anonymous