The Second Eclectic

Technology changes how we relate to God and each other

Bible Translations and Native Speakers

When I was preparing for our BibleTech 2013 presentation, I did a little research about how many English translations were out there. I expanded this to compare it with other languages. Then I decided to look at these numbers in relationship to how many native speakers there were for those languages. I chose the world's major languages.

I was wondering, in my research, what kinds of correlations we might draw. Most specifically, I wondered whether the number of translations would in anyway correspond to the levels of technology within the countries represented by each language. While I don't see any strong correlations, I think technology still accounts in part for the astronomical number of English translations as compared with other languages.

I think technology plays a role in a few ways. First, because the US is particularly technologically driven, it is conducive to organizing large groups to do translation. It does so by providing the infrastructure necessary for translators to communicate across the country. Second, organizing the data necessary for translation requires a high degree of technology or at least the technical mindset predisposed to such organizing methods. Third, printing and distributing Bibles to a market that is large enough to sustain so many translations requires a high level of transportation and communication infrastructure. 

I'd be interested to hear others' observations about this data or suggestions for additional data that would add to this picture. 

Click on image for bigger view.

A few notes: 

English had the highest number of "second language" speakers in the world--north of 700 million. No other language was even close. This could partially account for how many translations English has. 

It would be interesting to compare these numbers to how much money there is to spend within each respective language. Having additional disposable income may also partially account for these numbers.