Q&A: 2023 Global Scripture Access

Welcome to our Scripture Access Statistics for 2023! Here are some frequently asked questions for this annual update:

Q: Where do these statistics come from?

A: The Wycliffe Global Alliance presents these statistics annually from data provided through ProgressBible by Alliance organisations, SIL International, United Bible Societies and many other partners. Data is current as of 1 September 2023, and is based on the most recently available information about first language users in SIL’s Ethnologue.

Q: Why do global population numbers differ?

A: According to the most recently available information in SIL’s Ethnologue, 7.42 billion people use the world’s 7,394 known languages. However, language user statistics tend to lag behind actual population statistics due to challenges in gathering and updating information. The global population is estimated at 8.05 billion as of September 2023. But, for statistical agreement, we use the smaller Ethnologue number. Thus, in our report, global population percentages are given as “up to …” rather than an exact number.

Q: Which people need Scripture in a language that speaks to them?

A: Everyone needs access to the whole Bible in a language they understand clearly and that speaks to their hearts and minds. Usually this will be the primary language they learned as a child, although some people grow up communicating easily in multiple languages.

Q: In which languages is Scripture translation needed?

A: In thousands of languages, some Scripture is available but more is needed. For many of those languages, work is happening right now. Other languages have the initial stages of their first Bible translation projects underway—meaning that people are about to start receiving Scripture for the first time!

A separate group of 1,268 languages is called “Need Bible translation to start.” These are 99.8 million people with no Scripture and no translation work in progress, but an identified need.

Q: How can we say some languages do not need Bible translation?

A: All people matter to God, and everyone needs God’s Word in the language they know best. However, 1,148 languages, with 9.6 million users (about one-tenth of 1 percent of all people), are considered not to need Bible translation. In most of these cases, the people use another language which already has at least some Scripture. Even in languages used by hundreds or thousands of people, a clear shift often is underway as the next generation functions more comfortably in a “language of wider communication”. Sometimes, their first language is disappearing from use altogether.

Q: How does the Wycliffe Global Alliance figure into all of this?

A: The Wycliffe Global Alliance’s 100+ organisations serve within the worldwide church, participating in God’s mission through Bible translation and related ministries. Working in community partnerships, Alliance personnel not only assist in Scripture-related goals but also help produce resources for literacy, education, health and other community-based objectives alongside Scripture.

Q: Where can I find more-frequent updates on the global status of Bible translation?

A: ProgressBible issues a monthly snapshot email. Sign up here.


Read more about the work of the Wycliffe Global Alliance at wycliffe.net.

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2023 Global Scripture Access

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