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How many languages in the USA? (and how many have Bibles available online) November 28, 2019

Posted by Pete B in multilingualism.

The media often quotes a figure of 300 languages for London and 600 for New York. Both have evidence to back the claims that there at least this many, but there may be more.

As the USA gears up for a new census in 2020 I took a look at some of the previous data and future plans

The percentage of the nation’s population age 5 and older speaking a language other than English at home was 21.6 percent in 2016.


How many languages are spoken? Nobody knows. The previous census looked at information on 384  but…

“Any language that was written in at least once between 1980 and 2015 was given a code. This resulted in 1,334 language codes”


The list of codes is at census.gov/programs-surveys/demo/about/language-use/primary_language_list.pdf (some codes refer to groupings or to dialects so I’ll cautiously suggest that there may be at least 1200 languages in the list).

It occured to me that I could compare this to lists of available scripture.

…and so I did (all figures were provisional)

  • My initial calculation suggested over 300 have no recorded scripture in the language (some of these are closely related to other languages that do). In addition about 460 have some scripture but not a full Bible. 
  • About 600 of the 1334 languages that are assumed to be spoken by someone in the USA have scripture available via YouVersion or Bible.is, another 155 have a Bible or NT somewhere in print and the same number again have portions or selections.

I hope to do some further exploration of this data and to update these figures as I correct any errors I’ve made and as more and more translations are made available.


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