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Stories

2023 Global Scripture Access

by Wycliffe Global Alliance

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Total languages in the world: 7,394

Number of known users: 7.42 billion*


*The global population is estimated to be 8.05 billion. However, language user statistics tend to lag behind actual population statistics due to challenges in gathering and updating information. According to the most recently available information in SIL’s Ethnologue, 7.42 billion people use the world’s 7,394 known languages. For statistical agreement, percentages used here are based on the Ethnologue population number. Thus, global population percentages are given as “up to…” rather than an exact number.


Languages and people with Scripture


3,658 languages with some Scripture - 7.23 billion people (up to 97.4% of all people)

  • 736 languages with a complete Bible - 5.96 billion people (up to 80% of all people)

  • 1,658 languages with a complete New Testament (and possibly Old Testament portions) - 824 million people (up to 11.1% of all people)

  • 1,264 languages with some translated Bible portions - 449 million people (up to 6.1% of all people)

Scripture access status

  • 1,268 languages need translation (or preparatory work) to begin - 99.8 million people (up to 1.3% of all people)

  • 1,320 languages have work in progress - 82.1 million people (up to 1.1% of all people)

  • 1,148 languages either use Scripture in another language, or are not vital enough to plan translation work** - 9.6 million people (about 0.1% of all people)

**In most cases, the people use another language which already has at least some Scripture. Sometimes, their first language is disappearing from use altogether. The reality is often more complex.


Bible translation in progress


Bible translation is currently happening in 3,283 languages in 167 countries. This work impacts 1.15 billion people, or about 15.5% of all language users, who have (or will soon have) new access to at least some portions of Scripture in their first language. This number does not include people who already have a full Bible but are updating their existing translations.

Need Bible translation to start


99.8 million people, speaking 1,268 languages, still need translation work to begin:

  • Africa - 382 languages, 11.2 million people

  • Americas - 91 languages, 0.61 million people

  • Asia - 435 languages, 86.1 million people

  • Europe - 37 languages, 1.5 million people

  • Pacific - 323 languages, 0.37 million people


Wycliffe Global Alliance involvement snapshot, 2023

  • Alliance organisations are working in at least 2,608 languages.

  • Alliance organisations are involved in work in at least 141 countries.


Wycliffe Global Alliance historical snapshot

  • Over their history, Alliance organisations have been involved in the translation of New Testaments or Bibles in at least 1,865 languages.

  • Over their history, Alliance organisations have been involved in translating Scripture portions in an additional 996 languages.


Statistics are rarely as simple as the numbers imply


Even though we strive to provide an accurate snapshot, Scripture access statistics are complex. For example, determining translation need is not as simple as determining which languages do or do not have Scripture. Most of the languages with “some Scripture” need more, and even full Bibles often undergo revisions. Also, comparisons with previous annual statistics are challenging and sometimes not useful, as data definitions and collection methods improve.


A better way of measuring Bible translation progress


Statistics provide one lens through which to measure progress in worldwide Bible translation. The real stories are found in changed lives and communities as people encounter God through his Word, and as the worldwide church moves toward greater unity in Christ.


Alliance organisations continue to explore other important indicators of progress such as:

  • How are language communities experiencing life-changing impact from Scripture?

  • Are churches increasingly taking leadership in the work of Bible translation?

  • Are churches, communities, and organisations partnering more effectively to carry out the work of translation together?


Wycliffe Global Alliance presentations of global Scripture access statistics are compiled annually from data provided through ProgressBible by Alliance organisations, SIL International, United Bible Societies and many other partners. Data is current as of 1 September 2023, and is based on the most recently available information about first language users in SIL’s Ethnologue.


Further stories about people and projects are available at wycliffe.net and from your nearest Alliance organisation.

 

Reproduced with permission from Wycliffe Global Alliance

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