WHEN and where did mankind become multilingual? WHAT brought about this diversity of languages? Here is how the world's multilingual problems will be solved!
TODAY'S world is a divided world in its politics, religion, ideologies and in its social order. It is also hopelessly divided by uncounted languages and dialects. Even the Common Market in Europe is forced to use seven languages in its deliberations and publications! Why? How did it all begin?
Thousands of Languages
Nobody really knows how many languages and dialects there are in the world. All are agreed, however, that at least a few thousand languages and dialects are spoken by earth's inhabitants. Nations whose peoples speak different languages or dialects are handicapped sometimes greatly weakened by their multi-language culture. One of the chief reasons for the past strength of the British Commonwealth is found in one official language. Each year, countless sums of money are spent in studying foreign languages, in translating millions of books, articles, periodicals and other reading material, and in overcoming innumerable misunderstandings ali brought about through language barriers! Inventors have tried to construct translating machines to overcome the language-barrier difficulties but with very limited success. One such machine is reported to have translated the English proverb, "Out of sight, out of mind" from English into the German equivalent of "Invisible idiot"!
Why So Many Tongues?
What prevents the nations from devising a world language that could be adopted by all people? Before we answer this question, we must go back more than 4,000 years to a unique experience in human history. Modern historians take no note of it Yet this unique event has a vital message for today's confused, divided world. The time, according to the Bible setting, is shortly after the Flood. It was after the close of the Old Kingdom in Egypt and the Akkadian Empire in Mesopotamia. The races and families of men had already begun to multiply. One man became especially ambitious! This despot Nimrod began to rise above his fellow men and organize them into city states (Gen. 10:8-11). How many languages were there at that time? "And the whole earth was of ONE LANGUAGE, and of ONE SPEECH" (Gen. 11:1) is the answer. The few who survived the Flood, according to the biblical account, were now of one language quite different from the way matters were before the Flood. At that point in the history of mankind, the various branches of the human family rebelled against the government of God. They wanted one world of their own. "And they said to one another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them throughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime [bitumen] had they for morter. "And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name [let us become famous], lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth" (verses 3, 4). But the Creator, the Almighty God of heaven, saw what man was about to do. He acted. He confounded or divided their speech.
God Confused Man's Speech
But why? The answer is revealed in verses 6-9: "And the Lord said, Behold, the people is ONE [that is, they are united], and they have all one language; and this they begin to do; and now NOTHING will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. "Go to," said God, "let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech. So the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city. "Therefore is the name of it called BABEL; because the Lord did there CONFOUND the language of all the earth: and from thence did the Lord scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth." Many have read over this account. Few have really understood its import! Why did God object to the people having one language? And why did He not want them to be "one" that is, united? God well understood the almost unlimited capacity of the human mind that He himself had created! God in heaven knew that, if rebellious human' beings remained united, speaking one language, they would pool their mental and physical resources for DESTRUCTIVE purposes! It was not that God objects to man's having one language. He knew, however, that man would, by his accumulated knowledge, utterly destroy the whole world and all life if He did not intervene and quickly! So, mercifully, Almighty God in heaven divinely intervened in the affairs of mankind on this earth! It became necessary for God to step in and confound or confuse man's language so that the different families (which were later to become tribes and nations) would become hopelessly confused and divided among themselves. As a consequence, they would not, then, be able to combine their scientific and technological knowledge. Had the Creator not intervened and confounded man's language at the Tower of Babel, men would have raced along in the acquisition of scientific knowledge. Mankind would undoubtedly have advanced in scientific and technological knowledge to such a degree that the nations would have discovered how to use the atom before the time of Christ. God Almighty had ordained centuries before the events at Babel in fact at the beginning of the human race that He would let man follow his own codes of ethics, devise his own human politics and governments, establish his own forms of religion and in general, go his own way for 6,000 years. After which, God would send Jesus Christ to this earth to rescue mankind from the brink of world suicide and show man how to live a life of happiness, of accomplishment, of peace and prosperity. That divine act put an end to mankind's "one" language after the Flood. Man's unified efforts to build the Tower of Babel was the signal for Almighty God to intervene and separate races and families by giving each race and family the language that the Creator wanted that particular people to speak. The races and nations have remained divided linguistically ever since! Now see how mankind began, in the latter part of the 19th century, to try to undo God's work of confounding the language at Babel.
Esperanto and Other World Languages
Johann Martin Schleyer, a German Roman Catholic clergyman and linguistic scholar, invented a universal language, called Volapiik. He published Volapiik in 1880. This world language was based "partly on English," but alas, it had inconsistencies and weaknesses and so its adherents gave it up as a bad language. It was rejected. In 1887, a Russian Jew, Lazarus Ludwig Zamenhof (Dr. Esperanto) published his now famous work, Esperanto. This artificially created language was a mixture of Continental European languages included strong elements of Latin, Italian, French, German, English, Slavic; it has been referred to as "bad Italian." The Third Assembly of the League of Nations, in 192:2, even went so far as to endorse Esperanto. During World Wars I and II, Esperanto was used for political propaganda and underground activities. It was employed by the Red Cross and in the prisoner-of-war camps. But Esperanto has not proven to be 'the language that the world was looking for. Others have been devised and failed. Some have advocated taking a living language such as English, French, Spanish, German or Russian and making that into an international language. This would never work! Nationalistic jealousies and rivalries would doom such an attempt to utter failure. But, believe it or not, a world language a universal tongue is coming, and sooner than the nations imagine!
God Uses Different Languages
It is common knowledge that the Scriptures were first inspired in the Hebrew language, with a few fragmentary portions being written in Aramaic. Though the Hebrew language is expressive in many respects, yet it has a limited native vocabulary in contrast to the major languages today. It was not the tongue that Almighty God used as the tool through which He would reveal to mankind the mystery of the Kingdom of God, the Gospel or Good News of His soon-coming Kingdom! Greek became the New Testament language God chose through which He revealed the Good News of His Kingdom to the world. God had allowed Alexander the Great to spread the Greek language and culture over much of the known world in the centuries immediately preceding the birth of Jesus Christ. Greek had taken deep root by the time of Christ and the apostles. The New Testament was not only written in Greek, but much of the preaching of the apostles, especially Paul, was done in that language. But the Greek language over the centuries ceased to be a universal language among literate peoples.
God Chose to Speak Through English Today!
Strange as it may at first seem, Almighty God raised up the English language as His chief instrument through which He would publish and proclaim the Good News of His soon-coming Kingdom to much of the world at the close of this age! He is, of course, using French, German, Spanish; Dutch and Norwegian to meet special needs. But why primarily English? Some years ago an expressive writer put it in these vivid terms: "English is currently the world's most irresistible language... flexible, expressive and relatively simple, English is circling the planet at a phenomenal rate: "Spoken as... a second language by hundreds of millions.... English is becoming the universal tongue of trade, diplomacy, science and scholarship. Pilots of all nations use it for airways communication .... In emerging Asia and Africa, polyglot people take up English as the only way to comprehend their neighbors." (Time, Nov. 29, 1963.) More radio programs are broadcast in English than in all other languages. About three quarters of the world's mail is written and addressed in the English language. One can travel into any part of the world and nearly always find someone who can speak English. English is being taught in many schools, colleges and universities throughout virtually every nation on earth. It is interesting to note that multi-dialect Chinese is spoken by more people (about 950 million) as a primary language than any other tongue. But the myriads of Chinese dialects make it impossible for many of the Chinese to clearly understand one another's speech. English is now important to Chinese scholars and scientists. Not only is English written, broadcast, spoken and understood on every continent, it has come to be a lingua franca, the international language of diplomacy, scholarship, science, commerce and sport. Now one can clearly see why God has chosen the English language as the number-one language through which He would reach the largest number of inhabitants of the earth with His final warning to mankind and the Good News of tomorrow's world. English is a fairly easy language to learn, even if imperfectly. Its grammar is simple; it is a very versatile tongue. It is the most expressive major language in the world. One of the reasons is that the English language contains words from many languages Hebrew, Sanskrit, Greek, Latin, French, German, Italian, as well as miscellaneous elements of Russian, Spanish, Portuguese and Arabic. Also American Indian and other obscure tongues. This gives English a somewhat international flavor and appeal. It has been called "a concentration of many languages." Though all these things are true of English, yet it, too, has its weaknesses, inconsistencies and limitations! It is one of the world's most difficult languages to spell correctly.
A World Language Coming
A world language is coming-soon! The whole earth will yet share in one common tongue in peace and harmony. Many Bible prophecies show that God will send His Son, Jesus Christ, back to this earth, this time to prevent mankind from annihilating all human life (Matt. 24:21-22; Dan. 12:1 and Jer. 30:7).
"A world language is coming-soon! The whole earth will yet share in one common tongue in peace and harmony."
Micah 4 and Isaiah 11 vividly picture the time when the Kingdom of God will be established on this earth. This will be an era of unparalleled peace, happiness and prosperity! One of the great blessings that Almighty God will again grant to the nations during this 1,000-year rule of His government will be a universal, world wide language! This is clearly revealed in the third chapter of Zephaniah. Notice this prophecy. God will "gather the nations" and "assemble the kingdoms," to pour out upon them His "fierce anger" because of their mounting sins (Zeph. 3:8)! This prophecy is unmistakably clear. It refers to the same time as is portrayed in Zechariah 14 and Revelation 19 the time when the nations will gather to oppose the returning Jesus Christ at His Second Coming! They do not want any divine authority over them. What does the victorious Christ do? The answer is in Zephaniah 3. The time 'setting for Zephaniah 3:9 is millennial! God solemnly promises, "For then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve him with one consent." Yes, God Almighty is going to give all nations "a pure language" so that they may "all" call upon His name and serve Him in unity of purpose. There is no pure language on earth today. What language will God establish during the 1,000-year rule of the Kingdom of God upon the earth? The Scriptures do not directly reveal which tongue will become the universal "pure language"! We'll have to wait and see! But it may be based on English. For after all, God used Greek to replace Hebrew for continuing His written revelation when Greek had become an international tongue. Today English plays a similar role. But that will not mean that a knowledge of Greek and Hebrew or other important languages will disappear! Micah 4:5 would indicate this. "For all people will walk everyone in the name of his god [more correctly, God], and we [the people of Israel] will walk in the name of the Lord our God.... " There will be one international language, one truth, one religion, but various home languages, using different names for the true God may be here indicated. The coming international " pure" language, as well as any possible home languages, will not be filled with vulgar expressions. The pagan names of most days of the week, the months of the year and of the pagan holidays that masquerade as "Christian" will disappear. No more goddess of luck no more Thor's day (Thursday). Through the instrumentality of a pure language a universal, world language God will at last unite all nations under His utopian rule! But not until the nations are forced to repent of their sins and begin to live at peace with one another!