Bible translation – the good news and the challenge ahead.

Around 5.6 billion people now have access to a Bible in their language, but still over half of the languages spoken around the world have no Scriptures at all.

This encouraging but also challenging news comes from the UBS 2018 Translation Report, which was published recently.

So, while nearly 80% of the world have access to a full Bible translation in their heart language, still over 1.5 billion people have only part of the Bible, or no Scripture at all.

A basic overview of the Bible translation landscape as of 1st January 2019 can be seen below.



In 2018, Bible Societies around the world completed 66 Scripture translations, used by 440 million people!

These translations would not have been possible without the help and partnership of local churches and partner organisations in different countries.

44 of those 66 languages were ‘first’ translations:

  • 9 communities welcomed their first full Bible
  • 15 communities got their first New Testament
  • 20 language groups received their first, or additional, portions of Scripture.

In Eritrea, the native speakers of the Blin language celebrated the launch of their first New Testament. A joyful celebration attended by thousands of people was summed up by Letensea, 42, who exclaimed:

Today, I have received food that can fill us up more than anything in the world: this new Scripture speaks to our hearts!

Scripture access for the deaf and visually impaired

There were also advancements in Scripture access for the visually and hearing impaired.

Among the 20 language groups which received their first or additional portions of Scripture were five sign languages used by over 1 million people in Hungary, Lithuania, Japan, Thailand and Guatemala.

This translation is indispensable for the Deaf community,” said József Kéri, a member of the Hungarian Bible Society’s sign language translation team. (pictured far right in picture) “Even though I grew up in a Christian family, I only really understood the Gospel when I met someone who was deaf, like me, and who signed the message of the Gospel to me.

Helping the 70 million deaf people around the world is a growing focus for Bible Societies, and the Hungarian Bible Society have acknowledged that a sign language version of Mark’s Gospel has made a huge difference in the country.

For people living with visual disabilities, having their own copy of Scriptures means either an audio or Braille Bible. Both are very expensive, with the Braille Bible costing around US$600 to print, and putting these alternative Scriptures together is no easy task.

However, last year the Bible Society of Uganda completed a full Braille Bible in Luganda, the heart language of over 7 million people in Uganda. Luganda is now the 45th language in the world to have a full Bible in Braille.

The challenge for Bible Societies

In 2018, UBS set the challenge of providing Scripture-access to around 700 million people by 2038. This task will involve Bible Societies around the world working together, and, should the Societies get the funding they require, 1200 translation projects being completed in the next 20 years.

UBS Director General Michael Perreau said:

Our 20-year vision and mission strategy builds on a legacy of sacrifice and generosity passed down by generations of faithful servants. Now we continue that mission with fresh momentum by working more closely than ever before with partners around the world, including modern day Bible heroes living lives of sacrifice and dedication so that we all might have access to the life-giving Word of God.

The Scottish Bible Society is a founding member of the United Bible Societies (UBS) – a network of Bible Societies operating in over 200 countries and territories around the world who believe the Bible is for everyone and are working towards the day when everyone can access the Bible in the language and medium of their choice.