The Billion Listener Problem

Officially, there are about 776 million people in the world who lack basic reading and writing skills, according to UNESCO, the international organization tasked with measuring global literacy. Talking Bibles and its associates have worked for decades with non-literate, often overlooked minority groups who are isolated by language and culture. We know from experience that the problem of Biblical illiteracy is much greater. By our estimation, there are over 1 billion people in the world who cannot read the Bible in their heart language. These are the men, women, and children who need the spoken Word.

The hearing ear and the seeing eye, the Lord has made them both.

— Proverbs 20:12 (ESV)

Illiteracy and Non-Literacy

You will hear non-readers placed into two categories, the illiterate and the non-literate. The illiterate are non-reading individuals who live in literate societies. These are the people affected by circumstances such as learning disorders and dyslexia, lack of access to education, and government interference. Those who are blind and poor-sighted, either from birth, disease, or accident, have a particular disadvantage in developing countries where there are few if any accessibility aids. Because these circumstances are universal, it is important that the spoken Word be available even in the majority languages, such as Mandarin Chinese, Spanish, and English.

In the second category, the non-literate are people who live in societies without any readers at all. There are countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, South and East Asia where the literacy rate is far below the global average. Even within literate countries, such as India, there are non-literate populations of transplanted minorities, migrant workers, and refugees who have never received literacy lessons in their native tongue. These people learn the majority language well enough to find work, but their understanding of the Gospel is frustrated by language barriers. These non-readers long to hear the spoken Word in the language of their heart.

Then there is a third category of biblically illiterate individuals. Local governments around the world have prevented the import of Bibles and hindered education efforts, effectively making non-readers out of a literate population. Having the spoken Word on a Talking Bible is a powerful, effective defense against this attack on the spread of the knowledge of Christ Jesus.

A Bible for All to Hear

Whatever the reason for their lack of literacy, all non-readers are in dire need of the truth of Scripture in their own language in a format that they can study for themselves. The Good News in the Bible gives new life along with new vocabulary and a new way of thinking. People who struggle to survive in poverty often have no time or reason to learn to read unless they already know this power of the Gospel. But there are many people, especially leaders, who will not accept the authority of the Bible unless they can see or hear it for themselves. The Talking Bible crosses these barriers of mistrust and fear because God’s word speaks to them.

Talking Bibles International supports the efforts of mission organizations who teach people to read the Bible in their own language. Literacy programs and the spoken Word are two equally important tools in the evangelistic toolbox. But teaching reading takes time, during which people continue to go without personal access to the Word of God. There are hundreds of millions whose eyes will never know the letters on a page, but every one of those people has ears to hear. We have it on our hearts to reach these people. With the Talking Bible, non-literate individuals can hear the Word of God in their own language today—no classes required.

Global literacy statistics are taken from fact sheets provided by the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Institute of Statistics.

There are more people in the world who would prefer to listen to a Talking Bible than read it.

 

Global Learning Preferences

An oral learner is a person whose mental framework is primarily influenced by spoken rather than literate forms of communication
— International Orality Network

According to the International Orality Network, there are an estimated 5.7 billion people in the world who are oral learners, people with basic or below basic literacy skills. That staggering number includes men, women, and children of all ages.

Most oral learners belong to cultures that do not teach with books but with conversations, narratives, music, and visual arts. For these people, reading is not their preferred method of learning. As a result, oral learners may struggle to understand the Gospel when their only access is the printed Bible.

The Talking Bible communicates God's message to oral learners in the method they most easily can understand.

Talking Bibles has 25 years of experience bringing about positive, sustainable change to remote communities around the world through structured Bible listening programs.

For the first time, many have had the opportunity to have a life changing experience by listening to the Talking Bible in their own language. Churches are born from these listening communities, every one full of believers who are prepared to do outreach to their family and friends. Listeners begin taking responsibility for their actions, making peace with their enemies, and turning from their bad behavior.

When God speaks directly through his Word, he breaks down barriers of misunderstanding, mistrust, and fear. Every month, we feature the story of a life changed by the grace of God. The stories below are only a small fraction of the thousands of testimonies that we have collected directly from new believers who have received a Talking Bible.

While you read these stories, we ask that you prayerfully consider how you can help in this crucial Gospel work. There are many opportunities to volunteer, spread awareness, and support our ongoing projects through your donations. But most importantly, please pray that God would continue to bless these Christians with wisdom, understanding, and safety as they continue to study and share the Good News of Jesus Christ.