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The Bible has been translated into more languages than any other book by far. Wycliffe Bible Translators and others continue to do this in more and more languages. This is seen by many to be part of the fulfillment of the Great Commission.

So, is there any specific projection of when Bible translation into all the languages of the world (~6,000) will be complete?

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The languages that exist today, or the ones that will exist in a few years/centuries? What about non-written languages? –  San Jacinto May 15 '13 at 16:22
    
I'm assuming all written and unwritten languages in existence at the time of completion. Wycliffe and others often create a written language for a previously unwritten language, translate the Bible into that language, then teach the people to read it. –  Narnian May 15 '13 at 16:34
    
Wow. That's amazing. Do you have a link I could read regarding that process? It seems insanely difficult to me to teach literacy to illiterate people who are illiterate because they don't have a written language! –  San Jacinto May 15 '13 at 17:21
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@SanJacinto wycliffe.org is one. Also New Tribes. And here: ginesys.com/bibletranslation.htm –  Narnian May 15 '13 at 17:28

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According to Wycliffe, this is the state of Bible Translation today:

The worldwide status of Bible translation (2012):

6,800+ ...the number of languages spoken in the world today

Under 2,000...the number of languages without any of the Bible, but with a possible need of a Bible translation to begin

about 209 million...the number of people who speak the less than 2,000 languages where translation projects have not yet begun

Over 1,500...the number of translation programs where Wycliffe and its partners are currently at work

1,275 ...the number of language groups that have access to the New Testament in their heart language

518...the number of language groups that have access to the entire Bible in the language they understand best

over 7 billion...the population of the world

Although Bible translation is progressing at a more rapid rate today than ever before, an overwhelming amount of work has yet to be done.

From Wycliffe's own "2000 languages without a Bible" statistic, one can derive the fact that there is a finite number of languages into which the Bible could be translated. Between SIL and Wycliffe, the support infrastructure needed to learn, translate, and produce Bibles in every language exists, assuming the necessary resources were available. Given sufficient resources, there is no particular reason to see these as anything other than an exercise in parallelization, meaning 2000 dedicated individuals, willing to learn a language then translate the Bible into it, and then distribute it. This could, in theory, be done in a generation.

To this, I also add information from New Tribes Mission - a missionary organization that works primarily amongst indigenous tribes in New Guinea, a place where lots and lots of tribal languages exist. I know, in speaking with missionaries who deal with Wycliffe and SIL, that the typical progression of a mission is as follows. Note, much of this is shown in the video 'EE-TAOW' which describes the process:

  • 1 - 3 years assimilating into a tribe, in order to understand the language, mores, and stories important to the tribe. Little evangelization is done at this point
  • 3 - 5 years in, initial converts are made, as the Bible is presented orally - presenting the narrative of Scripture from end to end, culminating in the wonderful news of the Gospel.
  • 5 - 20 years, grooming leaders within the group who can further continue the work of the Gospel, as well as work with the missionary in providing a good, written translation of Scripture, assuming that literacy within the target groups warrants one.

The problem, of course, is that just having a bible in your language does not always mean you have a good Bible in your language - words change, concepts don't always match, etc... And, it doesn't always mean you can read it. There are all sorts of reasons why the answer of "20 years and 2000 missionaries" isn't really accurate, but hopefully, this at least brings an order of magnitude to the task.

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A lot of people in the know are saying that the last language without the Bible will have a translation started (perhaps not finished) during the lifetime of many (most?) people alive today. I have seen the date of 2038, for example. Of course, that assumes that God's people continue to support Bible translation with prayers, giving and getting involved. Linear projections are tricky.

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Thanks, Ed. Can you cite some references? –  Narnian May 18 '13 at 19:13

The Vision 2025 goal, being supported in prayer and in other ways, by more and more Christians all over the world, is the goal to have Bible translation at least STARTED, in EVERY language in the world that needs it, by the year 2025.

Lots of work still to be done, but work is accelerating, as more and more people pray! It is actually possible to reach this goal now, with the Lord's help and more and more Christians becoming involved.

I have lots about all of this on my Facebook (Roger Doriot) and on my web site (www.rogerdoriot.com). I also have a prayer calendar I am happy to share with anyone. It has a specific request for each day of the month, for some aspect of Bible translation, the strategy of using national translators as much as possible, and for Vision 2025.

Roger Doriot (rogerdoriot@gmail.com)

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Hi, welcome. I'm afraid this is not answering the question. –  Mawia Oct 29 '13 at 5:10

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