Interpreting Tongues: Mission Impossible?

Published 10th March 2012
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Interpreting Tongues: Mission Impossible?

When we use the word “tongues”, we often hear it being used synonymous with the word “languages”. Today we’ll be looking at interpreting tongues from a slightly different angle.

Speaking in tongues, also known as Glossolalia, is described as a “spiritual gift”. A gift from God whereby a speaker is bestowed with the ability to transmit God’s word through the medium of men. Glossolalia is a phenomenon mostly linked with Pentecostal and Charismatic sectors of Christianity. It is not unheard of in other religions, and is seen as one of the most progressive areas in modern Christian practice.

Often dismissed as “jibberish” or “nonsense language” by critics, speaking in tongues is a phenomenon. It is present in religious circles across the world. Glossolalia is widely believed as the closest possible connection that one can have with God on Earth. Sounds impressive right?As a language company, we’re fascinated by the idea of interpreting tongues, but where do we start with Glossolalia? Can it even be described it as a “language” in itself? Mission impossible indeed!


Advocates for speaking in tongues affirm that Glossolalia is the “language of the angels”, sent down from God and vocalised by the spiritually gifted speaker. It is intended to edify the speaker and their audience, bringing them closer to God, Strengthening their faith. Sceptics have noted however, that the sounds transmitted when speaking tongues can be closely associated with the phonetic systems, rhythms and intonation of the speaker’s native language. This suggests that speaking in tongues cannot be transmitted across cultures. It is in fact not universally comprehensible between its speakers across the world.

As for whether or not we can classify Glossolalia as a living language, we need to establish whether a relationship exists between its components and a system of meaning. Although these features are seemingly absent from speaking in tongues, perhaps we’re missing the point.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on interpreting tongues. If you have any more information, or can enlighten us further on this fascinating topic it would be great to hear from you!

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Ian Chapman – Director of Holiday Experience –

“Lingua Translations provides instant multi-lingual options for TUI’s 24/7 Holidayline, so 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year TUI’s customers are connected to an interpreter instantaneously. This service is designed to help holidaymakers who find themselves in difficulty and require non-English language assistance.

The service offered by Lingua Translations provides us with instant translation for every destination we travel to, and has proved invaluable.”

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