Post 25 / The Next Language
July 29, 2020
A little over a year ago I asked our language tracking team for a list of the world’s unrecorded languages. That list of over 2300 languages, grouped by countries and which fitted our “Priority One” status, became my companion everywhere I went. It was a powerful motivator for prayer and challenge. I would show the list to people I met and ask them how they would account for the fact that so many languages around the world still did not have the story of Jesus today, over 2000 years after the life and death of Christ.
I was warned that the list could just be the tip of the iceberg because Allan Starling, our Director of Speech Variety Research, was processing over 5000 languages that still had not been verified. Since then that verification process has been completed and the numbers did climb. We compare our data with that of other agencies who track such data. Each agency’s designations of languages (how they number, name, and track them) varies, which accounts for any discrepancies in the numbers list below. Principle among those agencies are:
- Wycliffe Bible Translators and their Ethnologue (they supply the ISO with language numbers); More Wycliffe/Ethnologue info here.
- the Joshua Project, which tracks both languages and people groups; More Joshua Project info here.
- The International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention (IMB) and their Global Status of Evangelical Christianity; More IMB info here.
I thought it time to bring you up to date on what we are seeing. Here are our numbers to date, gathered by Allan Starling and John Steinmetz (our Language Tracking Director) from various world resources:
- Unverified languages names: 4,091
- Verified Languages and Dialects: 13,220 (did not count those that say “no need”). Of those:
- Recorded Languages and Dialects: 6,471
- Unrecorded Languages & Dialects: 6,749.
However, we at GRN also classify our 13,000+ verified languages and dialects into categories, depending on their level of need. For example, Mandarin Chinese has over a billion speakers, but it also has Bibles, other resources, and millions and millions of evangelical Christians who are taking the Gospel to people in their own country as well as neighboring countries. Other language groups are smaller but have TV, radio, online, and print resources for their speakers. Those languages would be lower priority for us. We at GRN USA are called primarily to what we have named the “least reached” languages. Of these, we have identified 276 of the Joshua Project groups that are 0.00% Evangelical and that have no Christian resources available. We further categorize these according to our list of Gateway languages (major/trade languages through which we could reach out to these groups for recording):
- 55 through Indonesian
- 52 – Chinese
- 27 – Arabic
- 24 – French
- 15 – Russian
- 10 – Spanish/Portuguese
- 10 – English
- And 80 other groups possibly accessible by nearby minor-gateway languages, including:
- 13 – Malay
- 12 – Persian
- 11 – Lao
- 10 – Vietnamese
- 10 – Hebrew
- 7 – Dzonghka
- 4 – Thai
- 4 – Nepali
- 2 – Japanese
- And 6 “isolate” languages for which there is no known gateway language.
Would you pray with us that in our August-September training course we might be able to train key persons from each of the seven major gateway languages who can target and at least coordinate the recording of unrecorded languages in each of those areas? We believe that if we target the “least reached” we will probably see the way open up to reach hundreds of other unrecorded languages in the process.
Numbers. It is easy to get overwhelmed by them and you soon begin to wonder if they really matter. They do:
- Reliable numbers form our basis for praying and planning. The breakdown above helps us to target a more manageable set of languages to focus on for planning and prayer.
- We can also provide the names of this smaller group of languages as tangible prayer points for those called to the important work of “preparing the way” for recording projects. We rely on the prayers of God’s people to “go before” any recording we do.
I offer you the language numbers above for your prayers – for “unless the Lord builds the house, the workers labor in vain.” Watch for our next edition of the ALERT which will provide info about ways you can get involved in praying for – and doing outreach to –specific languages groups.
[If you are not on our ALERT bi-monthly mailing list, please contact us and ask to be added. We do not sell this list, just use it to “alert” you as promised.]
Larry DeVilbiss | Executive Director
Global Recordings Network USA
P. S. As a “thank you” for your continued support of the ministry of Global Recordings Network USA, and in celebration of over 80 years of God’s faithfulness, we have compiled a collection of 80 daily devotions written by GRN founder, Joy Ridderhof. You may read or download your copy of Rejoice Always – 80 Devotions with Joy Ridderhof here.