Q&A: 2022 Global Scripture Access

Welcome to our newly refreshed Scripture Access Statistics for 2022! We have made some changes in presentation and formatting this year, to make the stats easier to understand and use.

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 2022, and is based on the most recently available information about first language users in SIL’s Ethnologue.

 

Q: What is the most noticeable change in presentation this year?

A: Languages don’t need Scripture. People need Scripture. The goal of Bible translation is transformed lives. Therefore, we are emphasizing numbers and percentages of people impacted by global Bible translation movements, along with numbers of languages.

According to the most recently available information in SIL’s Ethnologue, 7.36 billion people use the world’s 7,388 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 expected to reach 8 billion by November 2022. For statistical agreement, we have used the smaller Ethnologue number. Thus, 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 with multiple languages in which they can communicate easily. 

 

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, the 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 1,680 languages is called “Need Bible translation to start.” These are 128.8 million people with no Scripture and no translation work in progress, but an identified need. 

 

Q: Why have the totals of languages with “no Scripture” changed?

A: Because this category was somewhat vague, we have broken it into three more-specific categories: 

    • Initial work in progress (but no translated Scripture yet); 
    • Need Bible translation to start; and
    • “No Scripture, likely no need”.

 

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

A: Since 1999 many in the Bible translation movement have talked about the goal of “a Bible translation project in progress for every people group that needs it”. All people matter to God, and everyone needs God’s Word in the language they know best. However, 1,155 languages, with 10.3 million users (about one-tenth of 1 percent of all people), are considered not to need Bible translation. In most 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?

The world is changing. The world’s need for Christ is unchanging. Bible translation movements around the globe continue to adapt creatively through new partnerships and innovations. 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.

 

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

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2022 Global Scripture Access statistics

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