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2023 starting the year well with online Bibles January 1, 2023

Posted by Pete B in Bible Translation, Scripture Engagement, Statistics.
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Happy New Year! …and no, the balloons aren’t wrong. I’m celebrating the fact that at the start of the year there are online Bibles, New Testaments, or portions of scripture available via Bible apps in at least 2,322 languages. (there may be a few I don’t know about plus a couple harder to classify)

  • YouVersion provides 2,867 versions in 1,913 languages, many with audio and video as well as text.
  • Faith Comes by Hearing provided audio scriptures in 1,740 languages by the end of Dec. (figures released early 2023. They also provide text and video for many of these and for a few they have text but no audio yet)
  • SIL’s Scripture App Builder isn’t a single app but rather a tool for creating scripture apps and so far they have been created in at least 1536 languages.

In some languages scripture is available on only one app, in others there is a choice and so between them, according to my best attempts at combining the lists scripture is available in 2,322 languages via these platforms and there are others online in other ways too. ScriptureEarth.org and Find.bible are two sites that try and list all the available languages and versions. On this blog I don’t try and list everything but I do point to these and other sites and encourage you to do so too.

You might only speak one or two languages languages or you may speak several. Digital Bibles in (all) the language(s) you speak may have been on your phone for several years. They might only have been added in the last 12 months or they might be still to be added, or even translated.

2023 is a year you can celebrate that more Bibles, in more languages, will be available to more people, as each platform increases its content and its reach. You can help too, through your own work in Bible translation and Scripture Engagement (several colleagues read this stuff); through praying for, encouraging and financially supporting people and organisations; and through the simple practice of telling or showing people where and how to access the Bible in their languages on their phones.

…oh and don’t forget to read/listen to/watch the Bible throughout this year and let it speak to you. Just like the print versions, Bible apps are much more useful when opened regularly.

“I will put my law in their phones and write it on their screens.”

Jer 31:33 (Altered Version) …not as good as the original

“I have hidden your word in my phone
that I might look at if I remember” 

Ps 119:11 (Altered Version) …not as good as the original

Census 2021: Languages and locations in England and Wales November 30, 2022

Posted by Pete B in multilingualism, Statistics.
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The new census data on languages spoken in England and Wales has just been released. Here are two mapping tools to tell you what languages are in your area and where specific languages are spoken. (It is worth saying that most people living here who speak something other than English also speak English fluently).

You can search for a specific language using maps provided by the ONS. From January 2023 a new web tool from the UK government allows you to explore an increasing amount of data using custom defined maps. Keen explorers can already access data down to local authority level and from this I’ve created my own map of to show all the reported languages in each local authority (just for England so far, using information on different tiers of local government structure)

The public census information for England and Wales only includes 95 language categories –  77 languages and 18 groupings of ‘other’.

Most local authorities include speakers from languages in at least 70-80 categories. Birmingham is home to 92 languages and categories followed by Bristol, Manchester, Barnet and Brent with 91, and Nottingham, Bradford, Hackney and Haringey with 90. Apart from the Isles of Scilly no authority had less than 50 languages present.  

There are over 350 languages known to be spoken in the UK and Ireland. More detailed information is collected in annual school censuses.

There are many ways in which this information is useful, including encouraging churches and community groups to think about the additional languages spoken by people in their communities and in their congregations and I have a whole selection on my blog dedicated to the idea of a more multilingual church.

Search for a specific language —– Explore languages in each local authority

How many Languages are Spoken in Europe? September 26, 2022

Posted by Pete B in multilingualism, Statistics.
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The edges of Europe vary according to who is talking about what. Picture from Wikipedia.

An estimated 225 European languages are spoken in Europe. This can vary according to definitions of languages and definitions of Europe. I wondered how many non-European languages are also spoken in towns and cities across the continent and decided to see what I could find out. Fortunately, this is the kind of data I’ve been looking at for a while.

A tweet from the The Council of Europe (below) for the #EuropeanDayofLanguages, linked to an interesting set of Language facts.

The final fact on the list was that “Due to the influx of migrants and refugees, Europe has become largely multilingual. In London alone some 300 languages are spoken”.

This figure for London has been quoted a lot over the last 20 years and is supported by an annual survey across schools in England of “languages spoken at home”. Unfortunately schools only get to compare the language names that people put on the form with a list of about 300 languages and 16 different categories of “other”, that could be hiding rather a lot of unreported languages.

In Scotland the recent 2022 census used 605 language categories but it will take a while before data is released.

A significant number of censuses that were due to take place in 2020 or 2021 were delayed by the pandemic. Many census reports do not include data on languages and those that do will only cover a subset of any languages people have named on their forms.

There are over 7,000 languages in the world. It seems reasonable to assume that most of the national and provincial languages have representatives somewhere in Europe. It could also be expected that there would be good representation of other languages that have large populations and progressively less as the number of speakers in the homelands get smaller. However , migration from one country to another, isn’t in direct proportion to the size of a people group but is also related to the pressure to leave and the opportunities available. Statistics are available on the countries of origin of business travellers, students, migrant workers, refugees and asylum seekers but far less detail is collected on the languages spoken by people in each of these categories.

In short, from looking at the available data, the number of non-European languages currently known to be spoken by individuals and communities across Europe is about 200.

My best guess is that the number actually spoken by by more than two or three households in Europe is somewhere between 400 and 4000. I look forward to discovering better estimates and the methodology behind them.

Bible Translation milestones 1992-2022 August 17, 2022

Posted by Pete B in Statistics.
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Out of all the languages in which a full Bible or a New Testament has been translated nearly 60% have been published in the last 30 years.

It's not about numbers, picture of a lone sheep - the one percent focused on in Jesus' parable of the lost sheep, plus some counts of Bibles and New Testaments in 1992 & 2022
A Bible or New Testament is now available in 2,343 languages. In 1992 the total was 1020

This statistic is something I noticed as Jennifer and I prepared to preach at a church she first joined in 1992.

For me 1992 was my first real introduction to world mission,  a year acting on a tour with the Baptist Missionary society who were 200 years old. The tour was to celebrate mission, thank supporters and encourage a new generation – that I didn’t know I’d be part of. 230 years ago the full Bible existed in less than 40 languages yet until presented with new information many people thought that the gospel had gone to every country and mission was done.

By 1992 the full Bible had been translated into about 300 languages and the New Testament about 720.

2020 was a year many of us were overwhelmed with statistics about Covid pandemic, or when it struck closer to home focused our thoughts and prayers were focused on individuals and families not charts and numbers. Colleagues compiled a list of the phrase “wash your hands” in 635 languages, and helped produce other posters and health messages and for the first time the number of languages in which a full Bible exists, passed 700 out of over 7000 languages that are actually in use.

The latest figures for languages in which Bible translation has been happening is 724 languages with a full Bible, 1619 with a New Testament, 1241 with Selections or stories, and 928 with work started but nothing yet published.

But it’s not about counting products and projects

Each translation has its own story. Some take 10 years to complete, some 30, some longer …and the finished book is only part of the story. Bible translation isn’t about completed books, but about transformed lives.

Finding Hidden Diaspora Languages: Who is looking? January 19, 2022

Posted by Pete B in Bible Translation, multilingualism, refugees, Scripture Engagement, Statistics.
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As part of my wider interest in Multilingual Church this is part 3 in a series on finding hidden diaspora languages. This section looks at “who is interested” (which includes perhaps anyone who makes it to the bottom of this blog), and who is interested enough to collect and explore the actual data.

Lots of organisations, both Christian and secular, collect and share information about or for the many diaspora communities

“Diaspora” is a title used both by self defined members of specific diaspora communities and those outside.

Today, some churches and Christian organisations talk about diaspora mission and think in terms of how we can find many ‘unreached peoples’ living in some of the major cities of the world. 

But how many? Which ones? And how do we connect?

Global Gates is one example of an American mission organisation, asking “Where should Christians prioritize work and prayer to see the least-evangelized peoples in North America reached with the gospel?”. Their publicly downloadable data covers just under 60 people groups across 60 metropolitan areas in the USA. They invite submissions of new information but state: “the people group must number at least 5,000 in the city to be included”.

Several other organisations including PeopleGroups.info and Joshua Project are looking for and sharing information.  Most are still only scratching the surface in terms of diaspora language information, but at least they are raising the questions. 

Who lives around us? 

Where else can we find members of a specific people group outside of their homeland? 

Personally, I have been interacting with other data sources and some of the people behind them for a number of years, first as a writer, webmaster, and communications specialist with Wycliffe UK, Wycliffe Canada and Wycliffe Global Alliance, then as an advocate and explorer of digital engagement (an emerging field within Scripture Engagement), and more recently in a broader field of missiology as well as data specialist with the SIL Global diaspora team.

In the last few years SIL has begun to talk about MUSE (Multilingualism Urbanisation and Scripture Engagement). We knew that people weren’t just moving from the villages to the cities, they were moving all over the world. And so without adding to the acronym there quietly emerged an SIL Global Diaspora Team, gathering data, stories, and a lot of questions with a remit, “to help SIL discern and articulate best modes of engagement with dispersed language communities and those who serve them, and to encourage and develop initiatives that advance meaningful development, education, and engagement with Scripture in urban, refugee and broader diaspora contexts.”

It is helpful to ask who else is interested in the questions of where languages are being spoken, and what languages people speak? Two clear audiences are Bible Translation agencies and Churches but they are not the only people. Governments and agencies collect or at least use what is available in terms of data on languages to plan and provide services. Thinking about who else wants to know opens up the way for discovering partnerships or data sources.

Questions I asked when presenting at the Bible Translation conference included:

  • Who is responsible in our organisation for knowing where to look and who to ask?
  • Is there someone responsible in your organisation?
  • How do we connect?

You can find key organisations, authors, and data sets through literature reviews, google searches, following some key social media feeds, and occasionally doing searches for key terms showing up in the news such as “languages” , “multilingual”, “multicultural” and “intercultural”.

Here are just a few of the organisations I’ve identified that collect information on communities and/or languages. They are all talking to each other yet but a lot of the available data can be explored and analysed.

Open Doors doesn’t specifically give information on languages but provides information about religious persecution of Christians. Many of the remaining needs for Bible translation are in countries on Open Doors World Watch list and different ethnic groups from these countries are often among the hidden diaspora, not yet recorded on the sites above.

The graphic at the top of the page also includes some sites for accessing scripture and other resources. The final links on this page points back to my first post in this series Finding Hidden Diaspora Languages: Intro and a bit more on Why it matters.

Finding (hidden) Diaspora Languages – intro October 15, 2021

Posted by Pete B in Bible Translation, multilingualism, Scripture Engagement, Statistics.
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Good data can help us ask (and sometime answer) a number of questions. Two key questions I want to ask are: “What are the languages spoken in your community?” and “What are the languages spoken in your church?”

I’m looking forward to presenting a paper today at the 2021 Bible Translation conference, on how to find more of the languages that are spoken outside of their country of origin, and people that speak them. I’m also looking forward to saying why I think this is important.

I have a written a few posts on this already including, Ten Reasons for a More Multilingual Church, but I suspect that one reason that the church doesn’t talk much about language is that they still need to talk more about Race, Justice, Culture and Diversity.

I’ve read a lot more articles on issues around language use and linguistic discrimination (which can also include accentism), as well as about churches working towards greater inclusion and models of intercultural church. Part of my contribution into discussion and action in this area has been in digging deeper into data.

Did you know that over a 100 countries were due a census in 2020 or 2021? Some of these ask questions about how well people speak the national language (or languages) and about the main language(s) spoken at home.

2011 Census details for England and Wales include about 80 languages plus over 20 different broad categories of “other”. Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own censuses and picked up a few more. Results from the 2021 census won’t be available until at least March 2022 (probably later).

Meanwhile, frequent reports of there being over 300 languages spoken in London are based on data coming from schools. (2015 data is online and a freedom of information request got me the latest list and the ability to delve deeper).

Prior to 2020, the US Census and American Community Survey had details on over 350 languages but might include more that get reported in the 2020 census. In a 2016 review, “Any language that was written in at least once between 1980 and 2015 was given a code. This resulted in 1,334 language codes”American Community Survey Redesign of Language-Spoken-at-Home Data, 2016

Meanwhile, over 700 languages have been identified in New York.

While better data on the languages spoken in our multiethnic, multicultural, multilingual cities and towns is useful for Bible Translation and Scripture Engagement  – it may also be about justice, equity, inclusion, and richness.

In some upcoming posts I’ll share just a few of the questions I’m exploring.

Under the question of “Why?” I explore reasons for wanting to know more than is already known about the distribution of migrant languages and their speakers.

Under “Who”, I raise the questions of who has information and why.

In a category of “How” I explore how information can be obtained and arranged.

Exploring “What exists?” and “What next?”, I share some discoveries to date and further exploration that may be needed.

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…

& Stories
1 India7212567264
4Democratic Republic
of the Congo
10Papua New Guinea16265137418
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.

(so far)
New Testament96010341168127514421583
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?

The Bible: between 1500-1600 April 10, 2021

Posted by Pete B in Bible Translation, Scripture Engagement, Statistics.
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When I mentioned that YouVersion had scripture in 1555 languages, one facebook friend thought that I was talking about the language of the year 1555, not the number of languages. Perhaps I should have written my post to commemorate the first authorised translations in the English language “Great Bible” of 1539, also known as the “Chained Bible”.

“The Great Bible” 1539, also known as “The Chained Bible”

A lot of things changed in regard to the availability of scripture in the 1500’s. I’ll mention a few of them before reflecting on the amazing progress being made in our own century.

William Tyndale started translating the Bible into English in the 1520’s, with the New Testament first published in 1525. For this (and perhaps for some of the words used) he was forced to flee. In 1536 charged with heresy, he was tied to a stake, strangled and then his body burned. His final words are reported as, “Lord! Open the King of England’s eyes.”

His prayer was answered. The principle of an English Bible was legalised in 1536 and the first authorised text was approved in 1537 (here’s the letter). While not given official credit, Tyndale’s translation was built upon in the Matthew Bible (1537), The Great Bible (1539), and the Authorised Version or King James Bible (1611).

The Mathew Bible 1537, British Library
“The Byble, which is all the holy Scripture: in whych are contayned the Olde and Newe Testament
truly and purely translated into Englysh by Thomas Matthew.”
View more at https://www.bl.uk/collection-items/matthews-bible

You can read more about the various versions on the website of the British Library in a 2019 article by Alec Ryrie, “From Sacred Scriptures to the people’s Bible” .

The picture at the top of this post is of the “Great Bible” which as the caption says and the Wikipedia article explains, the name was due to it’s size and it was also referred to as the “Chained Bible”.

Suddenly, it wasn’t just legal for churches to own a copy, it was commanded,

In 1538, Cromwell directed the clergy to provide “one book of the Bible of the largest volume in English, and the same set up in some convenient place within the said church that ye have care of, whereas your parishioners may most commodiously resort to the same and read it.”


But, on display in the church was still different to being available in people’s homes. The Bible’s were often chained to prevent removal from the church.

Today, as I also mention a lot in my blog posts, the Bible is very widely available in a huge number of languages. There are full Bible in over 700 languages.

progress.bible/data March 2021

Many others have at least a New Testament

progress.bible/data March 2021

And still more have selections and individual books of the Bible published.

progress.bible/data March 2021

Published, still isn’t the same as freely available to everyone and freely available isn’t the same as people knowing where and how to access a copy, but through print and digital versions this is getting closer. Making scripture available on an app or website still doesn’t quite make it accessible to everyone, but it’s certainly a help.

I started the post with my friends confusion about YouVersion having the Bible (or at least part of it) in 1555 languages. This was on March 24, 2021. By the time I started writing this post that number had gone up to 1575 languages, and as I publish the number at the bottom of their page at bible.com has just shot up to 2375 versions in 1639 languages.
It might be more by the time you click the link!

YouVersion isn’t the only platform providing scripture as text, audio, and as part of films including the Jesus film and the new Lumo Gospel films. Also check out the recordings data base of Faith Comes By Hearing and via their bible.is app. ScriptureEarth.org is another fantastic resource, providing links to the major platforms and also hosting a large number of additional texts and recordings along with links to individual apps and scripture sites.

Do you know anyone who doesn’t know that an “unchained” Bible is available on their phone? Is your church making people aware of this?

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