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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.

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    Do you mean today or throughout history? And if throughout history, do you mean by years read, geography, or number of persons? I assume you mean today, to which, my guess is that it might be English but there are still a lot of Latin Masses going on, though fewer and fewer every year. – fredsbend Feb 26 '15 at 20:45
  • It could possibly be Spanish or Chinese. I don't know any stats, but this is likely to be something someone has tried to research before. – curiousdannii Feb 26 '15 at 21:18
  • Why do you care, just out of curiosity? – Steven Doggart Feb 27 '15 at 12:46
  • Not a question about Christianity. – The Freemason Feb 27 '15 at 21:12
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    @TheFreemason does the Bible not have to do with Christianity? – Jeremy H Apr 7 '15 at 19:56
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+50

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.

I have taken the spreadsheet of data from the Joshua Project and put it in a Google Doc. Google Docs has some nice data processing tools!

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.

  1. Spanish: 381 million adherents
  2. English: 258 million
  3. Portuguese: 195 million
  4. Chinese: 110 million
  5. Russian: 85 million
  6. German: 47 million
  7. French: 38 million
  8. Tagalog: 38 million
  9. Italian: 37 million
  10. 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.

  1. English: 86 million evangelicals
  2. Chinese: 85 million
  3. Portuguese: 51 million
  4. Spanish: 47 million
  5. Yoruba: 13 million
  6. Igbo: 9.8 million
  7. Korean: 9.1 million
  8. Gikuyu: 5.1 million
  9. Tagalog: 4.9 million
  10. 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 is the best answer so far. Good job. 50+ goes to curiousdannii – Jeremy H Apr 14 '15 at 0:38
  • @curioudanni your are welcome. – Jeremy H Apr 14 '15 at 17:48
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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...

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    kI'm pretty sure that the US and Canada don's have Spanish as their mother tongue. Many people in south America speak other languages or dialects than Spanish, such as portugese, etc. – Jeremy H Apr 8 '15 at 18:30
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    Well, comparing ethnologue.com/language/por , ethnologue.com/language/eng and ethnologue.com/language/spa still suggests that Spanish is in the lead in the Americas... The last link cites even more than 30,000,000 native Spanish speakers in the US. – hbarck Apr 8 '15 at 18:47

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