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Bible translation progress 2018: looking beyond 2025 October 26, 2018

Posted by P, J, or J in Statistics.
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At the end of 1999 Wycliffe and it’s partners launched Vision 2025, part of which said:

“We embrace the vision that by the year 2025 a Bible translation project will be in progress for every people group that needs it.”

That powerful soundbite wasn’t the whole of the Vision 2025 statement any more than the great commission and the great commandment is the whole of the Bible’s message.

While the need is still great, the amount of work currently in progress is impressive.

Matrix-complex

(Chart from FAQ sheet accompanying new annual Bible translation statistics at wycliffe.net/statistics).

But the goal of starting work is not enough. In some languages work started, and then stopped. Those that stopped (for now) without any scripture having been produced have been added back into the current calculation of need for initial translation. Other languages may have had selections or even a full New Testament for five, ten, or even a hundred years and nothing since. Is that enough?

It is people not languages that need the Bible so it is not as simple as saying that the entire Bible needs to be translated into every language on the planet before everyone can understand.

But it is clear that many people would benefit from more of the Bible in their main language, or from updated translations, or additional scripture products. And while some scripture exists in 3350 languages, that doesn’t mean that everyone who speaks (or signs) those languages know that the translation exists, or where to access it, or why it matters.

It isn’t enough to start work. Another important fragment from the Vision 2025 statement

“Our desire is to build capacity for sustainable Bible translation programs and Scripture-use activities.”

from the Vision 2025 statement, 1999

Bible translation doesn’t just need to start, it needs to continue. Engagement is the goal – individuals and communities engaging with God, and people becoming not just converts but disciples – knowing, and showing what it means to love both our God and our neighbour.

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Bible Translation Statistics 2018 October 23, 2018

Posted by P, J, or J in Statistics.
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It’s a privilege to be part of the team that tracks the progress being made in Bible translation. The full set of numbers available at wycliffe.net/statistics not only show in how many languages some or all of the Bible is available in but also a revised estimate of how many more translation programs may need to begin.

2018 BTstats-en This year the number of possible translation needs has actually gone up. This is in part due to the inclusion of a large number of sign languages adding to those that were already part of the lists.

The real celebration is not about the numbers. The statistics page also links to six sites where Bibles, New Testaments and scripture selections and stories can be downloaded or accessed online and in phone apps.

The goal of Bible translation isn’t translated Bibles, it is transformed lives.

One statistic that saddened me recently was a report that suggested many modern Christians are unaware of the term “the great commission”, which refer to the command of Jesus as written in Matt 28:19. Here it is as translated in the Easy English Version.

17 When they arrived at the place, they saw Jesus. Then they went down on their knees and they worshipped him. But some of the disciples were not sure that it really was Jesus. 18 Jesus went close to them and he said to them, ‘God has given me authority over everyone and everything. I have all authority in heaven and in this world. 19 So, you must go to people in every country of the world. Teach them how to become my disciplesBaptise them by the authority of God the Father, his Son and the Holy Spirit20 Teach them to obey everything that I have taught you. You can be sure that I will be with you always. I will be with you until the end of time.’

The “great commission” goes hand in hand with the “greatest commandment” which Jesus gave as his answer when asked “Διδάσκαλε, ποία ἐντολὴ μεγάλη ἐν τῷ νόμῳ;” (‘Teacher, which of God’s Laws is the most important rule for us to obey?’)

Perhaps you already know the answer, if not you can find it at Matt 20:37-40

More from me about some of the numbers at wycliffe.net/statistics soon.

Bible-less languages and Bible-less people July 9, 2018

Posted by P, J, or J in Bible Translation, multilingualism, Statistics.
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People often get confused as to why there is a difference between the number of languages that don’t have any scripture and the number of languages in which Wycliffe and others report that scripture translation needs to begin.

scriptureandneeds2017

I’m wondering if we sometimes need to be more careful to distinguish between “Bible-less languages” and “Bible-less people”.

The simplest public messages on the need for Bible translation continue to imply that people cannot understand or respond to scripture unless it is in their language but research over the last 40 years has taught us that there are in fact many barriers to engagement. Which perhaps explains why there are so many millions of people who own or could easily access a Bible in their main (or only) language but never read it.

Language can obviously be a significant barrier (this is why I’ve spent the last 22 years of life working with Wycliffe and others involved in Bible translation). Promotional material has often implied that people only speak one language really well. This is sometimes nuanced with the idea that people only have a single “heart language” through which God can clearly connect  to them.

Many people speak more than one language equally well. Some are spoken to in multiple languages from birth, others acquire them one after another as they move into education or as they move from one place to another. It can still be true that for people who speak several languages well, one or two touch them more deeply. Language isn’t just about intellectual understanding but also about emotional connection, identity, and even trust.

2017BTstats-enThere are 3,312 languages with some scripture and 1,636 languages where translation is estimated as ‘needing to begin’. (figures from Wycliffe’s last official global statistics in Oct 2017)

Those ‘translation needs’ might rise or fall depending not just on linguistic analysis but upon the felt needs of the speakers.

As our understanding of the issues of multilingualism continues to grow it may be that some of the need is for initial connection with the Bible rather than ensuring that what ‘we’ see as the most important bits around salvation and Christian living are translated first.

One old story that comes to mind is the impact of genealogies for some cultures. Something the translators saw as secondary to the ‘important bits’ but which gave the local people the connection they needed –  a list of ancestors pointed to Jesus being a real person, the length of the list pointed to him being a very important person. Suddenly mere stories became true! In Joanne Shetlers’ book, “And The Word Came with Power“, it’s interesting to note that while Bible translation had a major impact, this discovery came from looking at a Bible in a majority language.

Meanwhile, I once met a young British man who had tried reading the Bible before but didn’t understand it. I showed him a modern translation opened “at random” to include the bit about God loving the world and giving his son so that those who believed could have eternal life – all wrapped up in John 3:16. The key to him engaging was John 1:37, “They answered, “Where do you live, Rabbi?” (This word means “Teacher.”)”
“Hey this is great!”, my new friend said, “It tells you what it means.”

Although there are still many people who are unreached and unevangelised, there are also billions of people do have easy access to the “important” bits in languages of head and heart but they have yet to make it past their own obstacles and make the connections.


For anyone wanting to read more deeply about multilingualism I’ve just downloaded a draft copy of “Language and Identity in a Multilingual, Migrating World“. I’ve got lots more of it to read but recommend John Watters’ section on “The Language of the Heart”. 

Bible Translation: Where we’ve been & where we’re headed next September 27, 2017

Posted by P, J, or J in Statistics.
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I marvel at where Google earth and streetview can take me. I can stand on roads in places where some of my colleagues went before there were even roads – in days when geography was still a major barrier to the gospel.

GoogleStreetMapSept2017

Click the map to go to Google’s page showing where there cameras have been. There are places today where geography is still a barrier, remote places that Google can only show from above, including some where there still aren’t roads to travel.

But there are also places where the barriers have more to do with safety, security and political or religious opposition.

You can get clues to some of the hard to reach places by looking at where the Google cameras haven’t been able to go yet.

You can also follow the work of organisations such as Open Doors which has worked with persecuted church for 60 years, first in the Communist bloc and then more globally.

For the last 25 years they have been providing data in the form of a World Watch list.

WorldWatchListScreenshot

These are not places in which the gospel has not gone but in which it has gone and is being spread with great sacrifice. Even in places that are not physically easy to access, technology allows inroads to the gospel, and assists in connecting with fellow believers and hearing each others stories.

Radio programs still reach millions, the internet gives some people access to materials but may be blocked, monitored, or simply unavailable or affordable.

Digital access comes in many forms and where once the ability to print smaller Bibles was a breakthrough now entire libraries can be carried on an SD card smaller then a finger nail.

But a library is still only of use if the materials are in languages that people can understand and that connect with them.

Materials in the right language can cross barriers of understanding and cultural acceptability.

Last year Wycliffe Global Alliance reported that at least some part of the Bible has been published in over 3,200 languages. This includes traditional printed scripture plus an increasing number of languages in which there are also phone apps, audio scriptures and videos.

Both Faith Comes By Hearing and YouVersion were able to celebrate products in over 1000 languages, and Jesus film had material in over 1400 languages.

By November new figures will be released showing the progress and remaining needs. There is much to marvel at and still much that God is still doing.

 

Bible Translation statistics and stories November 28, 2016

Posted by P, J, or J in Bible Translation, Statistics.
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In the 20 years I’ve been with Wycliffe, scripture has been made available in over 1000 languages for the first time ever!

For 20 years I’ve been both looking at the numbers and hearing the stories of the people involved in translation and of those who receive God’s word for the first time.

If you want to take a look at some of the numbers, a guided tour through this info graphic may be helpful.

bibletranslationstats_prezi
Wycliffe UK’s latest magazine provides a glimpse into the some of the individual people and projects.
wfl_winter2016
My (Peter’s) role has changed a little over the last 20 years.
In 1996 only a small proportion of Wycliffe supporters were online but it was becoming important to look to the future and build websites and communities to help raise people and funds.

In 2016 not only do most people in the developed world interact via the web in whole new ways on their phones but so do many people in the communities we work with.I recently read of a community of 60,000 people in a “very isolated area of the Northwest Region of Cameroon”.

It took me less than 30 seconds to find a facebook group for this community with 4,400 members.

I don’t know how many of the communities we work with have people online but I think we are now at the stage when more do than don’t.

Jennifer’s contribution has morphed over time too, although always centered around coaching an empowering others in their management and strategic leadership. Currently she is leading the HR thinking around the growth and development of staff, how the organisation can learn, develop and change more effectively and how staff supervisors can better provide guidance and support for their staff.

Working with Wycliffe means that we rely on financial support of churches and individuals (we’re required to raise 110% of of our income). Click here if you would like to donate or find out more.

New Bible Translation Statistics 2016: When is translation finished? November 19, 2016

Posted by P, J, or J in Bible Translation, Statistics.
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Some scripture is now available in 3,200+ languages and the number without anything started is falling. So when will the task of Bible Translation be finished?

progress-2016aMany people  think the publication of a full Bible marks the end of translation, but this is rarely the case.

In August, a press release announced, “Beginning in the summer of 2016, the text of the ESV Bible will remain unchanged” Fifteen years after it was first published this was a bold move not only implying that the text can no longer be improved but that the meanings of the words won’t change either. It was to have been unchanged “in the same way that the King James Version (KJV) has remained unchanged ever since the final KJV text was established almost 250 years ago (in 1769)” … 158 years and countless revisions after it was first published in 1611.

In September the publisher made another bold move and reversed the decision, acknowledging that it had been a mistake.

Unfinished

active-programs-progress-and-needs

for more numbers and more explanations see wycliffe.net/statistics

Of the 636 languages in which there is a translation of the complete Bible, 303 of them are known to have ongoing translation work of some kind. Some are being revised to cater for changes in language or improvements to style or translation, in others entirely new versions are being translated.

Some people oversimplify the ministry of Bible translation and link it to the return of Christ implying that when translation is finished in the last language Jesus will return. Some even imply that he won’t return until the Bible (or at least some of it) has been translated into all 7000+ known languages (including ones where no one speaks them as their main language any more).

The truth is languages will continue to change, revisions will be needed and translation will continue until Christ returns. But we do know that at least 1700 more language communities have needs right now for Bible translation to begin. Even then the goal is not printed text or online products but people encountering and engaging with the living God through scripture.

Celebrating 1000 (and 3000) languages with scripture August 23, 2016

Posted by P, J, or J in Bible Translation, Statistics.
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You Version have just sent an email declaring that “The Bible App is the first app in history to offer 1000-languages-email text content in 1,000 languages!” …which makes a good headline even for those not impressed by the fact that scripture is available in an app in so many languages.

I’d mentioned in an earlier post that Faith Comes By Hearing was approaching the same milestone of having audio scriptures available in 1000 languages.

I also said that 2016 would be the year that marked publication of at least a portion of scripture into the 3000th language. This week I may learn whether that has already happened. Of course publishing scripture doesn’t always mean people know it exists even for those that are online. Often announcements on the facebook pages of YouVersion and Faith Comes By Hearing are met by requests from people wanting to see scripture available in their language only to be told that it already is.

Translation and publishing are vital steps towards promotion, distribution, and engagement with scriptures.

Meanwhile, far too many people are still in that ‘small’ percentage of the world’s population who still have no published portions of the Bible in their language. Many have translation work in progress, some communities have decided for themselves that they can access what they need in another language, but many still don’t even know what they are missing

…and too many of us don’t appreciate what it is we have!

2015 Bible Translation Statistics #3 December 2, 2015

Posted by P, J, or J in Bible Translation, Statistics, wycliffe.
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2010-2015

The 2015 Bible Translation statistics are starting to be circulated. Former Wycliffe director Eddie Arthur blogged of the figures, “This is truly remarkable; a cause for celebration and thankfulness to God for making it all happen. It’s an immense privilege to be involved in this worldwide movement.”

I’d agree. Eddie goes on to say:

“I’ve just got a little niggling problem: to what extent can we say that people have access to God’s Word if they only have a book of Scripture or perhaps a New Testament …are we setting the bar too low? God gave us the whole Bible (including the difficult bits) for a reason, shouldn’t we be aiming to see it all translated into the languages of the world?”

Eddie has blogged on this previously, here and here with a valuable longer paper available here.

It’s a good niggle. Wycliffe’s new infographic spells it out “Having some scripture is not the end. Ongoing work is needed in thousands of languages.”

Eddie’s paper focuses on what bits of the Bible are important (all of them) rather than on which languages communities and agencies should focus on. (more on that in the infographic).

WordPress decided that readers of Eddies post would also like to see his post from 2009 when the number given for complete Bibles was 451 instead of the current 554. In the graphic above I’ve quoted numbers published for 2010. Caution should always be taken in comparing data from different years, and extreme caution taken in drawing graphs and making predictions about future progress, but one thing is clear – progress is being made and while not every project moves from portions to New Testaments to Bibles that certainly seems to be a trend.

Wycliffe has a vision for seeing translations started, and the start is just the beginning.

I’m privileged to have an ear to the ground as to what God is doing around the world in terms of Bible translation and a voice at the table in how some of us should talk about that. Here are a few challenges I flagged recently for when we talk about progress and remaining needs.

Definition of need – not as simple as “NT+ in 1887=no need”, “no scripture (in heritage language)=need”
Multilingualism – not as simple as “heart language” or nothing
Multiple dialects – not as simple as one product per language
Vision 2025 – to see translation begun where needed
Finished – There will be no more need for translation when languages stop changing, when each generation is the same as the last, when every one has all they need. Not ‘Christ won’t return until translation is done’ but ‘translation work won’t be done until Christ returns’

finished

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