In case you didn't know, today is a day to remember and celebrate language!
Specifically set aside in honor of the language classified as our Heritage Language; the language we identify with most; probably our first language, and what has cleverly come to be called our Mother Tongue. (I personally like the term "Heart Language" but that's a discussion for another time)
The following article was written previously by Ed Lauber and I am excited for an opportunity to share his perspective again, written from the vantage point of a Missionary Bible Translator!
I only have two days left in Asia, and I'm anxious to get home for many reasons, one of which is the old proverbial logic that the sooner I get home the sooner I can come back! : )
There will be more updates about that later, for now, let's Praise God for the blessing of personal, human communication and what it means for our heavenly, eternal relationship.
- Joel Wagner
You can see the original article on Ed's site: http://heartlanguage.org/2013/02/21/mother-tongue-day/
Today is International Mother Tongue Day which gives focus to minority languages. But we all have a mother tongue even if it is not a minority language.
Of course, the Bible has something to say about the fact that we all speak different languages. Everyone knows the story of the tower of Babel. As a reminder, here is the passage:
And the LORD said, “Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city. Therefore its name is called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth; and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth. (Genesis 11:6-9 NKJV)
I have heard quite varied interpretations of this story. According to a common interpretation, this is the story of a curse. Those who hold this interpretation also hold the view that the multiplicity of languages is a curse, or at least a hindrance. This interpretation, however, does not square with other parts of Scripture. I’ll come to that in a minute. But even if it is true that the multiplicity of languages is a negative thing, that does not make it a curse. God’s actions to correct us are not curses! They are loving attempts to get us back on the right track. So if speaking many languages helps us to follow God, that would be a good thing.
Wait! The Apostle Paul pretty much said that:
And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; (Acts 17:26-27)
So the Apostle is saying that
- - God made all peoples, and
- - He decided where they would live and when, and
- - He did this so that they would search for Him and find Him.
These verses do not mention language, but language is an integral part of the identity of a people. The verses are clear. God divided the human race into ethnic groups (most with their own language), so that they would seek and find him. Making it easier to find God is not a punishment! If God says (through Paul) that the multiplicity of ethnic identities leads to more seeking of God, then we should listen to that carefully and allow that to influence our view of language. Too often, we let our views on language diversity be determined by our politics or our patriotic sentiments, and not by the Scriptures. Because our linguistic and ethnic identities are designed by God to help us seek and find him, we dare not disdain, neglect or ignore them in any sphere but especially not in the ministry of the church or in missions.
NUMBER OF LANGUAGES SPOKEN IN THE WORLD TODAY
That there are multiple languages on the earth is not a disorder. It is not an aberration, a problem to be solved, nor a hindrance to human development. It is part of God’s purpose to bring people to know him. Interestingly, people from major languages do not get this. But those from minority languages often do. When their language is written and translated, they feel recognized and elevated. See my blog Counted for one example.
We who speak international languages often do not know what it is like to speak a language others consider unworthy or useless. The thing is, that is never God’s opinion. He created our languages and cultures for a purpose. As my colleague in translation, Eddie Arthur, wrote:
Whatever the reasons others celebrate Mother Tongue day, let’s celebrate the good gift of our mother tongues and our ethnic identities. And let’s use that good gift the way He intended – to seek Him and find Him and to help other seek and find him.
- Ed Lauber