About Bible translation

Why is Bible translation so important?

Read more about Why is Bible translation so important?

When people have the Bible in their languages, churches grow and people come to know Jesus, and believers grow in faith.

The Bible is essential for evangelism, discipleship, and church growth. Jesus told his followers to take the gospel to all the world, but there are still hundreds of language groups which don’t have access to God’s word in their own language.

History shows that there has never been a strong local church without the translated Bible being used by local leaders. 

Other mission agencies depend on the foundational work of Bible translation in order to do their work. Indeed, it was other mission agencies that came together almost 70 years ago to found Wycliffe in order to address this fundamental need in world mission.

Wycliffe and our partner organisations are involved in over three-quarters of Bible translation work around the world.

What difference is the ministry of Bible translation making in the history of Christianity around the world?

Read more about What difference is the ministry of Bible translation making in the history of Christianity around the world?

A quote from American historian Mark A Noll in his book Turning Points: Decisive Moments in the History of Christianity is a great way to sum up the immense impact Bible translation is having:

‘If it were necessary to find a single turning point symbolising the movement of Christianity from the North to the South, a good candidate might be the founding of Wycliffe Bible Translators… This organisation has been the most visible promoter of Bible translation in the twentieth century. The translation of the Scriptures, in turn, may be the most enduringly significant feature of the global expansion of Christianity.’

Hasn’t the work of Bible translation already been completed?

Read more about Hasn’t the work of Bible translation already been completed?

Unfortunately, no, the urgent work of Bible translation has not yet been completed. Currently over 1 in 5 people worldwide – that is over 1.5 billion people – still do not have the Bible in the language they know best.

While huge progress is being made, much work and investment is needed to ensure that all people can know Jesus through the Bible in their language.

But excitingly, more Bible translation work is in progress now than ever before – all because of the giving and praying of people like you. 

If this momentum can be maintained and accelerated through increased investment, then the time is in sight when all people will have access to the Bible in their language. So this is a very important time in the history of Bible translation around the world.

What has been accomplished so far?

Read more about What has been accomplished so far?

Huge progress has been made, thanks to the giving and praying of people like you.

There are currently 7,398 languages in use worldwide.

750 have the complete Bible 

1,712 have the New Testament 

1,260 have portions of Scripture

This means 5.97 billion people have access to the whole Bible in their own language, a further 832 million people can access the New Testament, and 457 million can access portions and stories. 

There is also work in progress happening in 3,819 languages. As a result, many thousands of people’s lives have been changed, and many local churches have developed and grown. The language work Wycliffe has been involved in has also contributed to ongoing literacy programmes.

*All statistics, ProgressBible Snapshot (June 2024)

What work remains to be done?

Read more about What work remains to be done?

1 in 5 people, speaking 6,648 languages, do not have the whole Bible in their first language.

There are 2,241 languages that have no Scripture and no work in progress at the moment. Of these, 1,107 languages (spoken by 35.5 million people) are considered vital enough for communities to sustain and benefit from translation work.

Much of the work that remains to be done is in places that are hostile to the gospel. But excitingly, more Bible translation work is in progress now than ever before – all because of the giving and praying of people like you. 

If this momentum can be maintained and accelerated through increased investment, then the time is in sight when all people will have access to the Bible in their language. So this is a very important time in the history of Bible translation around the world.

*All statistics, ProgressBible Snapshot (June 2024)

What work is in progress?

Read more about What work is in progress?

More Bible translation work is now in progress now than ever before – all because of the giving and praying of people like you.

3,819 languages have begun active translation or preparatory work. Wycliffe and other partner organisations are involved in over three-quarters of this work.

If this momentum can be maintained and accelerated through increased investment, then the time is in sight when all people will have access to the Bible in their language.

*All statistics, ProgressBible Snapshot (June 2024)

What translation standards does Wycliffe adhere to?

Read more about What translation standards does Wycliffe adhere to?

We believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God. We take very great care to ensure that Bible translations are faithful to the original languages. 

We are committed to Bible translations which communicate the original meaning in full, without distortion.

Wycliffe adheres to internationally agreed standards for Bible translation. We are a member of the Forum of Bible Agencies International (FOBAI) and abide by the FOBAI translation standards and the translation standards of the World Evangelical Alliance.

What are the qualities of a good Bible translation?

Read more about What are the qualities of a good Bible translation?

The purpose of translating the Bible is so people can be transformed by coming to know God through his word. A translation must be faithful, and it should also be usable!

A good Bible translation will be:

Accurate

Accuracy is the most important quality of a good translation. An accurate translation is one that conveys the same meaning as the original, or gets as close as possible to communicating the original meaning. Finding exact equivalents for specific words or biblical ideas across different languages is often very challenging, especially where the biblical idea (eg forgiveness) is unknown in the receptor language culture. Yet, difficult as it may be, the translator strives to find the closest equivalent possible to convey the same meaning.

Clear

A good translation will make the meaning as clear as possible and will be easy to understand. It will not be confusing or ambiguous. We don’t want people to read the translation and wonder what it means.  

Natural

A good translation will reflect the natural usage of the local language, so it will not sound like it was translated by someone who doesn’t know the language. Every language has natural patterns that make it sound beautiful. An unnatural translation will sound stilted and be hard to understand so people will not enjoy reading it. But readers will enjoy using a natural translation and will readily understand the meaning. That’s why it’s so important for local people to take the lead in translating the Bible into their own languages wherever possible.

Accessible

The Bible is translated so that people will use it and be transformed by it. We don’t want it to sit on a shelf. An accessible translation will be delivered in the right format, with the right script and appearance, so that people will engage with it.

What is the process of Bible translation?

Read more about What is the process of Bible translation?

The Bible is a long, complex book written in a different time and culture, and producing an accurate translation in another language is a tall order not to be taken lightly! For this reason, a full Bible translation takes time to do well.

Before even starting on translation, foundations need to be laid. Bible translation teams need to raise local awareness and support, find and train the right people to be translators, and in many cases, create and test a written form of the language. Building a foundation of local involvement and ownership, as well as developing a written form of the language in partnership with the people group, is vital. Without this preparatory work, a translation can end up gathering dust on a shelf, or even be rejected completely.

Once the team has started translation work, they proceed through the stages of drafting and checking, redrafting and rechecking, for each of the 66 books of the Bible.

The aim of Bible translation is that the word of God gets into people’s lives and hearts. That means the work does not end with translation. The work of equipping people to use the Bible in their language happens alongside translation work, and continues after the translation is complete and launched.

How is cutting-edge technology helping to accelerate Bible translation?

Read more about How is cutting-edge technology helping to accelerate Bible translation?

People working with Wycliffe are engaged in developing cutting-edge technology. From software that enables translators to work more efficiently, to apps that enable people to listen to and read the translated Bible, to designing fonts so languages can be written and read on screens, to new developments in AI, this technology helps translation teams to accelerate the process of translation and enables more people to engage with the completed translations.

Specific translation software that enables translation teams to compare their draft translation alongside the original languages, and also with translations in other languages, plays a huge role in helping translators produce accurate and clear translations more quickly. 

Wycliffe people have also been central in developing Bible apps that translation teams around the world can use. These apps have the written text of the Bible along with the audio recording. The written text is highlighted as it is being read, which also helps in developing people’s literacy skills.

Wycliffe people are also developing cutting-edge fonts technology so that more people can write in their languages – especially ones that have just been written down for the first time – on computers and other screens. A number of these fonts are added to the open-source Google fonts library, which means that they make a huge difference beyond Bible translation in the lives of people speaking those languages. You can read more about this work here.

Wycliffe also has people working on developing AI tools to assist the Bible translation process.

Sometimes people ask why we don’t use Google Translate. Google Translate only supports around 100 of the world’s over 7,000 languages, and works by searching for word patterns in large banks of documents. For many of the languages we are involved with, these banks of data don’t exist, as the language has never been written down before. Even where written documents do exist, Google Translate isn’t complex enough to do an accurate translation of the Bible. While technology is always improving, computer programs continue to struggle with complex grammar structures and words that have more than one sense or meaning, and can tend to produce somewhat robotic-sounding texts.

Who and what is involved in Bible translation?

Read more about Who and what is involved in Bible translation?

It’s all about teamwork! There are many different roles and areas of expertise. 

Surveyors carry out initial research to establish translation needs. Working alongside local people, work is done where needed to develop an alphabet, analyse the grammar, produce primers and teach people to read. Literacy specialists help to train others in order to establish ongoing literacy programmes and encourage widespread use of the language in written form. 

Linguists/translators support the translation work and pass on their skills to local people. Other people specialise in encouraging Bible use. We also need support workers such as secretaries, teachers, accountants, computer technicians and programmers, mechanics, pilots, printers, media personnel and many others. The likelihood is that with your gifts and professional skills you could be a valuable part of the Bible translation team. Explore more about joining Wycliffe here.

Which original texts do you translate from?

Read more about Which original texts do you translate from?

A whole Bible translation can take many years to complete. All those involved in Bible translation need wisdom from God in making the right decisions, in textual matters and in the many other complexities of translation. Standard Hebrew (Masoretic) texts for the Old Testament, and for the New Testament the Nestle-Aland, Majority Text or Textus Receptus (upon which the King James Version is based) may be used.

About Wycliffe Bible Translators

Where does Wycliffe work?

Read more about Where does Wycliffe work?

Worldwide – the majority of Wycliffe projects are in Africa and Asia, but some are in Europe, and we have people serving in central America. 

Work is in progress in 3,819 languages. Wycliffe and our partner organisations are involved in about three-quarters of this work. Currently we have over 350 people from the UK and Ireland serving over 580 million people speaking over 320 languages in over 60 countries. 

But there are still people speaking 1,107 languages that need Bible translation to begin. Many of these languages are spoken in places that are hostile to the gospel.

*All statistics, ProgressBible Snapshot (June 2024)

How much of the work of Bible translation is Wycliffe involved in?

Read more about How much of the work of Bible translation is Wycliffe involved in?

Wycliffe and our partners worldwide are involved in about three-quarters of all translation work happening around the world.

How are Wycliffe personnel supported?

Read more about How are Wycliffe personnel supported?

All Wycliffe members (mission partners) serving overseas or home-assigned, whether translators, administrators or support workers, raise the money they will need for work and living expenses through the support of their church/es, family and friends. 

Wycliffe provides the necessary training and help, and can share many stories from our members’ experience about this powerful way of learning to depend more fully on God. He is a faithful God, who always provides for his work in this world!

Here are some helpful links to help you understand what we mean and how it works: our serving longer-term FAQs and this article: How will God provide?

What size is Wycliffe?

Read more about What size is Wycliffe?

Outside of North America, Wycliffe UK & Ireland is one of the largest Bible translation organisations in the world. 

Currently Wycliffe has over 350 people from the UK and Ireland serving over 580 million people speaking over 320 languages in over 60 countries

When and why was Wycliffe founded?

Read more about When and why was Wycliffe founded?

We were founded in the UK in 1953 by other mission organisations who saw that Bible translation was essential to them being able to carry out their mission work. 

The very first Wycliffe people from the UK worked with people groups in South America, following the lead of Wycliffe USA members. It wasn’t long before people from the UK started to concentrate more of their efforts on Africa and unreached people groups there. Now, while Wycliffe people from the UK still maintain a strong focus on Africa, we have many people in Asia and across the rest of the world.

What is Wycliffe’s model for working in partnership with local translation teams?

Read more about What is Wycliffe’s model for working in partnership with local translation teams?

Wycliffe’s aim is to serve and equip local translation teams so they can translate the Bible for their people. We do this by providing necessary funding to enable translation teams to function. We also do this through our people, who come alongside local teams to help equip them through training and mentoring for the task God has called them to do – to translate the Bible for their people. We seek to work in partnership with local churches, as they are the people who know more about what their communities need. Read more about the biblical values that underpin how we work here. 

Over the years, methods have shifted from British people going and translating the Bible for language communities, to our people coming alongside language communities and working in partnership with local colleagues, assisting them to translate the Bible themselves. Our tools and methods have also changed over the years – while paper and pencil are still useful, laptops, specialist translation software and high-speed internet that allows for real-time communication over long distances can make all the difference in today’s Bible translation projects.

About how you can play your part

How can I donate?

Read more about How can I donate?

We want to make it easy to donate. You can give in the following ways:

online

– by direct debit

– by telephone: call 0300 303 1111

– by post: send a cheque (payable to Wycliffe Bible Translators) or charity voucher to: Wycliffe Bible Translators, PO Box 1643, Oxford OX4 9PB.

What is Words for Life?

Read more about What is Words for Life?

Words for Life, our magazine and prayer diary, comes out four times a year and is delivered free of charge to all our subscribers. 

Words for Life offers impact stories and Bible translation news from around the world, and an accompanying prayer diary comprising one short item every day for three months, until the next edition. 

Words for Life is only published in print as this allows us to share more stories about the work happening in places that are hostile to the gospel than we could online.

Subscribe here – it only takes a few seconds.

Where can I get copies of Bibles in other languages?

Read more about Where can I get copies of Bibles in other languages?

Could I serve with Wycliffe?

Read more about Could I serve with Wycliffe?

Everybody’s journey to serving in mission is unique, so explore the join Wycliffe pages on this website and contact us using the get in touch form on those pages. We would love to prayerfully walk with you as you explore serving God in Bible translation.

We encourage people to talk with their pastor and other church leaders, to seek their advice as you explore how God is leading you.

A great way to learn more about Wycliffe and serving in Bible translation is to attend our Explore event, which will give you a good overview of how you could be involved. 

 We have people throughout the UK and Ireland who are available to talk with you personally about your interest in Bible translation, so we would love you to get in touch with us!

What initial training would I need to work with Wycliffe?

Read more about What initial training would I need to work with Wycliffe?

Our aim is always to provide the right level of training and orientation for the role you will be taking. For some roles, all you need is your existing skills and some basic cross-cultural training. Others require specialist courses offered at the School of Language and Scripture.

Are there short-term opportunities?

Read more about Are there short-term opportunities?

I’m no good at languages – how can I help?

Read more about I’m no good at languages – how can I help?

Are there other ways I can get involved?

Read more about Are there other ways I can get involved?

Yes! You can pray regularly for Wycliffe personnel or a language group which doesn’t have the Scriptures, or you can give to enable us to be able to say ‘yes’ to more translation teams that are asking for support. You can also join the team and give your time and skills to work in an office or on a project.

I’m outside the UK and Ireland – how can I get involved?

Read more about I’m outside the UK and Ireland – how can I get involved?

If your question isn’t answered here please contact us – we’d love to hear from you

Wycliffe Bible Translators logo Close
Close modal