In which language is the Bible most read today? In a recent discussion, we surmised that the most read language translation of the Bible would be English. I am hoping to have a more definitive answer than a probably prejudiced guess.
This type of research would be incredibly hard to get accurate data about. But we can still get a good idea of what the most used languages are.
The first set of statistics is the number of Christian adherents per language. This means the number of people who identify somehow as Christian, such as ticking the Christian box on a census. It doesn't indicate anything about how they practice their faith, if they even do. In the case of the Chinese, it is grouping together many different languages, but as most use the same written language, I think this is legitimate. The Swiss German are grouped together with Standard German. I'm not actually sure if they would use the same translations or not.
- Spanish: 381 million adherents
- English: 258 million
- Portuguese: 195 million
- Chinese: 110 million
- Russian: 85 million
- German: 47 million
- French: 38 million
- Tagalog: 38 million
- Italian: 37 million
- Polish: 36 million
Now these numbers will include many millions of people who never actually read a Bible. Unfortunately there's no good way to estimate that. Many people who identify as Christian are very nominal (they don't really practice in any way) while some branches of Christianity do not emphasise personal Bible reading much.
What I can present from the Joshua Project's data is the number of Evangelicals for each language. As Evangelicals do emphasise Bible reading their numbers could be closer to how many actually regularly read it. But I know that there are many non-Evangelicals who do read their Bibles! Just as there are millions of Evangelicals who don't. Four of these languages are African, and may have lower literacy rates (though to be fair that could be the same for many of the languages in the first list too). Do they balance each other out? I have no idea.
- English: 86 million evangelicals
- Chinese: 85 million
- Portuguese: 51 million
- Spanish: 47 million
- Yoruba: 13 million
- Igbo: 9.8 million
- Korean: 9.1 million
- Gikuyu: 5.1 million
- Tagalog: 4.9 million
- Oromo: 4.5 million
All of this is also completely ignoring the fact that most of the world's people are bilingual and may read the Bible in a language other than their primary language (especially English), especially as there are thousands of languages without a Bible translation. In which language is the Bible most read? Probably Spanish, English, Portuguese or Chinese.
This graphic http://www.unitedbiblesocieties.org/what-we-do/distribution/ suggests that Spanish might be the language in which the Bible is read most, since most of the inhabitants of the Americas have Spanish as their mother tongue...