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If Bible Translation was an Olympic Event… August 1, 2021

Posted by Pete B in Bible Translation, Statistics.
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If Bible translation was an Olympic event then looking at languages per country, the ‘medal’ table for the first 20 countries might look something like the chart below. But it all depends on what you count…

CountryBibleNew
Testament
Selections
& Stories
Total
1 India7212567264
2Indonesia3310293228
3Nigeria306093183
4Democratic Republic
of the Congo
27243687
5Myanmar26131453
6China21172765
7Kenya2111941
8Ghana2021445
9Philippines198418121
10Papua New Guinea16265137418
11Cameroon165847121
12Uganda168731
13Mexico1313145189
14Ethiopia13221651
15Mozambique116118
16Guatemala115319
17Zambia114318
18Tanzania10352671
19Chad10241246
20Russian Federation10222961
data from progress.bible July 2021

The chart shows totals for translated scripture by the ‘hub country’ for each language. This avoids counting a language in more than one country but can sometimes give a distorted picture – as could assuming that all the athletes representing a country speak only the ‘national’ language of the country.

The truth is that many Olympic teams and many Olympic cities are a celebration of diversity. The website Olympic Cities states that London is “A world-in-one city”, “With no less than 230 languages spoken”. (most sources claim over 300 languages spoken in the city, and I suspect that to be an underestimate).

Charts showing the number of Olympic medals won by each nation rarely include columns about the numbers of athletes entering or the total population of the country. The chart on Bible translations above doesn’t show the total number of languages for each country.

Another ‘problem’ with my chart is that it doesn’t take into account how recently the translations have been completed, or how readily available they are.

So here’s a quick table of the world totals from the last few Olympic years, along with a couple of notes of explanation.

200020042008201220162021
(so far)
Bible371405438518636713
New Testament96010341168127514421583
Portions902883848100511451195
Total223323222454279832233491
data from wycliffe.net and progress.bible

Translation statistics above are those reported by Wycliffe Global Alliance, usually up until September 30 of each year, so there are still a few to add for 2021. ‘Results’ don’t come in quite as quickly as for the Olympics – figures here are from July 2021.

The leap in 2016 is due to identification of some previously unreported translations plus a change in reporting which included selections and stories rather than limiting portions to the translation of a full book.

Currently, work is in progress in over 700 of the languages in which nothing has been published, and many languages that have ‘something’ will have a lot more by the start of the Paris Olympics in 2024.

As for availability, most published scriptures are available in print and/or audio somewhere (if you know where to look) and in recent years an amazing (Olympian?) effort has been made to make scripture available digitally with scripture now available in at least 2100 languages via apps and websites with about 200 of these being made available for the first time just this year. (almost 90 new on YouVersion since my last blog post and 28 new languages added in June to the audio recordings from faithcomesbyhearing.com ).

The apps with scriptures in the most languages are YouVersion and Bible.is and the most complete public index of these and others is ScriptureEarth.org.


A quick request. I don’t mind how many people link to this blog post, but I’d love to see more churches celebrating the variety of languages and cultures in their community, helping people find scripture online and exploring other aspects of being a more multilingual church. If your church website and social media doesn’t already link to online Bibles, why not suggest it?

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