Where would we be without language? Making fire, building
houses and wearing clothes are all important things that contribute to our
humanity but language in particular is an area where humans display their
“God’s special creation” status. Language also provides us with inexhaustible
material for study. Written language is a phenomenon that enables us look back
to ancient times (just to find that they were rather like modern times).
Written language is also important because God has thereby preserved the
testimonies of His works for us to read about today, thousands of years later.
One thing that anyone who reads can notice is that, not only do languages
differ from country to country but also across time periods. Languages change.
This may appear to support the principles of Darwinism. However, it is in this
very change that we can observe principles derived from God’s creation of the
world and the Bible. Languages become less complex. This is especially true of
spoken language, which has fewer and less often enforced rules. Words are lost
from normal people’s vocabularies. These words are evidently no longer vital
for expressing one’s opinion or feelings but none-the-less a language becomes
less expressive in this way. It is interesting to note that the San people in
south-east Africa are supposed to have a very “old” language. Their vocabulary is
famous for its clicking sounds. The San language includes many more sounds than
typical Western languages.
We are told in Genesis that post-flood men were inclined to defy
God and make a name for themselves. They all spoke the same language and wanted
to stay in the same place instead of following God’s command to over-spread the
earth. Instead of sending down lightening bolts, God displayed His creativity
by choosing to confound their language. Since that time some 4,000 or so years
ago there have been attempts to create or establish a worldwide language. The
various empires have all tried to promote particular languages. Latin has been
an important religious and scholarly tongue but does not hold the position that
it did before in the Western nations. Spanish is the official language of many
countries but even after 500 years there are still groups of people who do not
understand it in those countries and many more for whom it is not their mother
tongue. French was important as a diplomatic language from central Africa north
through the Islamic countries to Russia and west to the Americas, with many
French speakers in Southeast Asia (the parts formally known as French Indochina).
French is now giving up ground to English. However, English is still not the
most widely spoken language because there are more people that speak some
dialect of Chinese than any other language. A language called Esperanto was
invented in 1887 as a second language for the whole world. There were several
problems with this idea, however. To start with it was no one’s mother tongue.
Secondly, people that learned it probably already knew Latin or French or some
other widely spoken tongue, making Esperanto unnecessary at best. Even if a
language could be chosen for the world, it is doubtful that people would be
able to communicate efficiently across the globe. The Inca Empire had a network
of communication that enabled them to rule over much of western South America.
Quechua is descended from the Incan language. However, Quechua speakers in
Cuzco, Peru would not be able to understand Quechua speakers from Equador,
although there might be some groups of people in between with whom they could
communicate. On a map, the area shaded for Arabic speaking countries looks
impressive. However, even with their common religion, the Koran (in classical
Arabic), and now basically pan-Islamic television the spoken languages differ
from country to country. Learning Chinese presents some obstacles to the
student. Even though so many people speak Mandarin Chinese (the official PRC
language), in Hong Kong and in the China Towns of San Francisco and New York
City one may get their point across better with Cantonese.
So when man started up his ambitious project at
Babel, God started the confusion of languages and speech will never be identical globally again (until He
wants it to be, that is). Even though different languages form barriers they
also protect us form destruction that would result if men were able to plan
more ungratefulness and rebellion against God. Language is a great gift from
God. We use it to talk to Him and each other. Language helps us to see that we
are important because if we were regular animals explaining how we feel would
not be that necessary. We have a desire to talk about our fears, our pains, and
our joys. As language is a gift from God we should use it to bring Him glory --
like so many do on Creation Conversations!