The Language Barrier

Languages do exactly what God created them to – confuse people. In Genesis 11, God instructed mankind to fill the earth and to spread out after the Flood, but they disobeyed and went directly against what God had said.

“Then they said, ‘Come, let’s build a great city for ourselves with a tower that reaches into the sky. This will make us famous and keep us from being scattered all over the world.” 

Gen. 11:4 NLT

God countered their disobedience, 

“Come, let’s go down and confuse the people with different languages. Then they won’t be able to understand each other. In that way, the Lord scattered them all over the world, and they stopped building the city.” 

Gen. 11:7-8 NLT

What God does, He does well. Around 7,000 languages currently exist worldwide, and they are still doing what God created them to do. They confuse. They separate. They’re a barrier to understanding and to building relationships.

Thankfully, we also know that God is a communicator and a God of order. This is evident throughout Scripture. When God confused language, He didn’t choose to make it something one could understand, but another could never learn. He certainly could have done this, but instead, because He is a communicator, He gave us the ability to learn and understand other languages.

God has created languages with order. He has designed them in such a way that, although they are confusing and complicated, they are decipherable. We are created in God’s image. Not only has He has made us to be communicators like He is a communicator, but He has also given us something to communicate. Disciples of Jesus have been given Good News and have been commanded to take this to the ends of the earth. Once again, God says to spread out, but this time for a different reason – to make disciples of every tribe and tongue.

Part of God’s great mission is that the Church would bring the Good News into languages that it has never been before. We are charged with the task of learning to communicate the Gospel to those who have yet to hear it, which requires a lot of work and a lot of time.

At Ethnos Canada, we purposefully equip each student with tools to learn another language. In order to communicate the Gospel clearly, one needs to have a high proficiency in the language or else understanding will be significantly lost. Training is a big step in this direction.

The training includes classes on:
Sounds & Symbols (Phonetics): how and where to make different sounds with our speech apparatus (i.e. mouth, tongue, lips, etc.)
Phonemics: how to look at a language from an insider’s perspective in order to create an alphabet for an unwritten language.
Structures of Communication (Grammar):a look at how God has created languages with order and how then to recognize and properly use the building blocks of a language.

Yes, languages are confusing. They are a barrier. But God the Communicator has allowed us to adapt to another language and culture, so we, as the Church, go to share His Good News with every tribe and tongue.

What part will you play in this? Will you be a part of a language group hearing the Gospel for the first time?

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria,and to the farthest parts of the earth.

Jesus (Acts 1:8 NET)