Can you learn a language by studying the Bible translation in that language?

Has there been anyone that strictly learned a language by studying the Old and New Testaments of the Holy Bible in that language translation?

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Hi, I haven’t studied any language by reading the Bible only. However, I have read the Bible in English and I’m reading it in Portuguese now (you may already know and it helps. I also started reading a Gospel in Polish, but I didn’t stick to my plan…

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I’m glad to see others on here share in interest in such a great book or in my humble opinion the greatest book ever! I’m quite aware of which is excellent. I have the app on my phone too! I read the Bible in multiple languages especially English, Spanish, and of course the original languages of the Bible, Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. I also wanted to know if there were any language learners that learned languages by using the Bible along with other material or if the Bible alone. Thanks for your input, Mike.


I’m glad to see others on here share interest in such a great book . . .

Well, so far there has been only one other.

Anyone who learns the ancient Gothic language would have to learn it by reading the Bible, as that is almost the only work that has survived in the language. Gothic language - Wikipedia For many modern languages the only work available in written form is the Bible, and translations of the Bible are available in more languages than translations of any other book (if I remember correctly).

However, for many languages the usual translation of the Bible is in quite old fashioned language that would not be really suitable for modern writing or speaking. Think of communicating in the English of the King James translation! There is of course also the problem that the vocabulary in the Bible is not modern, and so limited, no matter when the translation may have been done.


I’d like to propose far more interesting alternatives for general public in my opinion:
La Bible amusante pour les grands et les enfants (The Amusing Bible) by Leo Taxil
The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins

By the way, the last one has very modern language and is translated in more than 30 languages.

The key is to learn from content that interests us.


The Brazilian Portuguese translations are quite archaic, and it wouldn’t be ideal if you wanted to learn modern Portuguese. However, reading the same text in multiple languages is a great way to gain ground quickly in a language, especially if the material interests you.

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I begun reading the Vulgate a few years ago. I was picking up the Latin rather quickly, to be honest. Not nearly as difficult as I imagined; though knowing the text fairly well in English probably helped a lot with that. I’m sure if I had continued, I would’ve developed a decent grasp of Latin in general. Yes, I think one could learn a lot about a language from a contemporary, sense-for-sense Bible translation; the more literal translations are probably not good representations of any given language. However, there’s certainly a lot of modern, everyday vocabulary that’s missing from the Bible, as well as many, many terms that a non-Christian will have no use for.

More than a handful. Plus I can’t conceive of a single situation in which a disinterested party will need to know terms such as “unction” and “firmament” (from the KJV, anyway), or of a small phonebook-amount of archaic personal names and religious items (eg: 1 Chronicles).

Then again, I’d still prefer to read the Bible any day over Harry Potter.

I have used some audio/ text in Russian from the eastern orthodox bible and found them very helpful and I’ll even say very relaxing to listen to. If you already have some intermediate knowledge of the modern/secular language use, then any archaic forms and esoteric words are usually easy to spot, so there’s not too much danger of accidentally choosing these forms in conversation.

Pretty much any text you ever read is going to contain some words, figures of speak, grammatical constructions which you yourself are unlikely to use in conversation, that’s no reason to avoid them. Also, in the case of an older text (depending on the style of the translation), it can be very interesting to see a different register of the language, and see a prior stage of the contemporary language. Thumbs up for the bible in this regard : )

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I’d say the answer is, most likely, no.

As a minimum, it would be a very inefficient approach to only use one source for language learning.

Second a5m’s recommendation for Richard Dawkins.

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You can do that!On condition that you make lighter your work if you find a given learning activity very hard.

Thank you all for your lively comments and advice.

A lot depends on which translation is used. As Imyirtseshem says, there are modern translations of the Bible. It, especially the New Testament, is available in many languages; it could be useful, especially for someone who is enthusiatic about it, but it wouldn’t be sufficient all by itself.

However, take a look at three widely used / recommended versions of the Bible, and you won’t find modern colloquial language: the King James version in English, which is realy archaic, the Segond Bible in French with its use of the passé simple, and the Synodal Russian Bible; which can hardly be called modern. Would anyone really recommend them for learning their respective languages, unless there was no other choice? (Sorry, Maths.) The original questions was “strictly learning a language by studying the Old and New Testament.”

And if you look at the “Living Bible” translations (I’ve only seen them in English and French), they often drift widely from the original. Many people would not even call them translations but paraphrases, nor call reading them, “reading the Bible.”

The Dawkins book sounds worthwhile, a5m. I definitely agree w/ the Léo Taxil suggestion, although as you say it is not the very latest French (or Russian, which is the copy I have).

Since being religious doesn’t demand a thorough knowledge of holy books . . .

Imyirtseshem, that depends on which variety of Christianity you are considering. And since the question was specifically about the “Holy Bible,” whether paraphrases are actualy the “Holly Bible” or rather “the modern, revised perversion” as some call the “Living” translations (i.e, NOT actually the Bible) could be vital.

I have found that reading the Bible in a language I am learning has helped my progress in the language enormously. I attribute this in part to two particular factors. 1. I have quite a good knowledge of the Bible in English (my first language). This means that I recognise many passages and actual words so I do not need to use a dictionary much, even quite early in my aquisition of the new language. 2. I try to find a fairly simple translation at first, such as, in English, the Good News Bible. A version very similar to this is the Spanish version, Dios Habla Hoy. Similar versions are available in other languages also. If you are learning a language without much printed material available, the Bible is very likely available to you. I believe that the Bible is available in more languages than any other book ever. Another site for Bible translations is Bible Gateway. Passages can easily be imported into LingQ using the bookmarklet. Some versions are also available in spoken form.
I agree with others who have said that it is probably easier to start in the New Testament than the Old Testament.
I do not believe that using only the Bible would ‘work’ because the vocabulary is limited to the specific vocabulary of the Bible. The Bible, however, can go a long way in helping you learn.
Imy, I choose to disagree with you about the Bible. The Bible is in one sense, not in itself ‘holy’. The Bible has been used as a way to frighten people into behaving in certain ways and to justify all sorts of evil acts. The Bible itself claims that its main purpose is to reveal God to us through Jesus, whose birth many around the world are going to celebrate in 11 days’ time. The Bible tells us that Jesus came to demonstrate God’s love to us through his own life on earth, and to open the way to a relationship with God through his death and resurrection.
If it is decided that what I have written is not suitable material for LingQ, I simply point out that others have been free to put their own opinions here on the forum.

I’m amazed by your skill of learning a language by translating a long book,such as The Bible.It’s true that it’s about of part of this,but I think it’s an enormous ability.This could be an unconventional way to learn a new language rather different from classic methods,i.e. courses.If one has plenty of time,I think he/she can learning a language by translating an entire book or part of this one.I have no much spare time and I tried first to translate into my language a whole book,but this action can take a lot of time and can be improper for who learns a language an hour a day.I prefer to use little texts,translating them and to pratice my pronunciation,that I judge an important factor in language learning.

I give free help using online Bible textbooks. or or General - English is Better with the Bible!


As a general rule I keep my religious opinions to myself, esp. online.

I remember seeing a Canadian guy try to teach Afrikaans using the NT. I thought it was an interesting idea, although he didn’t get very far.

I’ve tried to read the Bible in Spanish (the RV 1909) but got about as far as I do when I try to read it in English :slight_smile:

If you want to read old public domain Bibles in other languages (although you might see outdated vocab) try and visit world Bible.


Ernie wrote - " (Sorry, Maths.) "
Ha, no problem. I didn’t really ‘recommend’ learning via this method : )

But yes, now considering the original question was "strictly learning. …by studying the Old /New Testament " then |'m in total agreement with you.