So Many Languages, So Few Translations

DESPITE THERE BEING today nearly 30 times as many different Bible translations as existed in Tyndale’s time (and hundreds or English versions and editions), the need for Bibles in all the world’s languages is far, far from met.

According to the Wycliffe Bible Translators’ International Linguistics Center in Dallas, Texas, of the more-than-5,000 known language groups in the world, at least 3,186 (some 60 percent) have no translation of the Scriptures in their language at all: no Bibles, no New Testaments, not even a single book of the Bible. The number of people in each of these language groups ranges from less than 100 in some groups to more than 22 million in one.

The Wycliffe Center says that translation work is underway for at least 1,333 of these 3,186 languages, and that translators enter a new language group on an average of one every 8–10 days.

However, translation is a long process, so translations do not come out nearly that often. Up to 15 years may pass between a translator’s first contact with a new language group and the actual publishing of just a New Testament in that language, according to the center. And it has occasionally taken 30 years for that to be accomplished.

Currently, according to the center, 1,837 of the world’s language groups possess all or parts of the Bible in their native tongues. Of that number 293 language groups possess the entire Bible, and another 637 possess the entire New Testament.

By the Editors

[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #16 in 1987]

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