I have to admit, those words ran through my mind and out of my mouth several times during advanced linguistics and cross-cultural training. Chapter 11 in Genesis provides an interesting answer to the question “who thought this up?” Verse 1 says that “all the earth was of one lip and speech”, which is the Hebrew way of saying “one language.” The chapter goes on to tell the story of how mankind ignored God’s direction to spread out across the face of the earth in favor of making their own name great by staying in one place and building a tower with its top in the sky.
God knew that when mankind tries to do whatever it desires, the result is usually detrimental to the well-being of other humans. So He came down and confused the language. The people scattered and the tower remained uncompleted.
On my worst days in class, I lamented that I was now suffering primarily from the result of what happens when mankind seeks to make a name for itself in spite of God’s leading. In this case, the result was over 7,000 languages! On the other hand, what I learned is that once you get past the shock of all the specialized lingo of linguistics like ‘voiced labiodental fricative with egressive pulmonic air’ (the ‘v’ sound) and ‘allophones of the same phoneme’ and ‘simple sentence with concessive margin serving as frustrated succession notionally’ — is that in spite of the wide variety of languages that people in the world speak, with all the different sounds and structures, there are still somewhat predictable universals about how the language will function.
God left us an orderly and beautiful foundation so we may learn languages and ‘decipher the code’. And the more languages we work with as examples of how linguistic principles work, the more I am in awe of how beautiful human speech is. How wonderful it will be the day that Revelation 7 comes to pass, when all creation, people from every tongue, tribe, and nation, gathers around the throne of God to worship Him and proclaim His name above all names. On that day, mankind will no longer try to make a name for itself with towers and buildings and power and wealth. On that day all languages will be used to praise God and all effects of mankind’s pride will be reversed forever.
Who thought this up?! God did, and it is beautiful and wonderful. I am much privileged to serve in this ministry to help bring the word of God to people in a language that speaks to their hearts. May His word reach your heart and speak to your life in a language that connects with you.