205 Why So Many Languages?



Scripture tells us that, at the Tower of Babel, “The Lord confused the people with different languages” (Genesis 11:9.) He did such a good job that today they’re still confused, and the experts are not always completely sure what’s a language and what’s a dialect—but they have a good idea.

Dynamic, not Static

Languages are dynamic, rather than static. They’re living, growing, changing. For instance, we don’t speak today the way Shakespeare did, or the “thee” and “thou” way the King James Version of the Bible was written. We’ve gradually changed our language.


When groups are isolated one from another, their languages change. Think of two groups who speak the same language. They move apart. Group A’s language starts changing in one direction and group B’s language changes in another. The Afrikaans language spoken in South Africa is a good example. In 1652 the Dutch East India Company sent out a party to the southern tip of Africa. They established a halfway stop to India for ships plying the spice trade. They were isolated from their homeland. Over a period of four hundred years, the Dutch language in Holland changed and the Dutch language in South Africa changed. The latter version eventually was eventually recognized as a distinct language called Afrikaans.


As technology develops, our culture invents new words. For example, if you look in a dictionary printed fifty years ago, you will not find words like astronaut, google, or DNA.

Borrowed words

Many languages borrow words from other languages. Engilsh is a prime example. It borrows words from Latin, Greek, French, Italian, and Spanish, to name a few.

More questions about languages (Click on the questions for the answers)
· Isn’t the Bible translated into most languages?
· Don’t most people understand English?
· Why are 7,000 languages the tip of the iceberg?
· Why should I care about dialects?


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