Column: Languages


Hafa Adai. Konnichiwa. Hola. Bonjour. Ni hao. Kumusta. Hallo. Annyeonghaseyo. Olá.

Nine different languages — but what are they all saying?

Simply, “hello.”

There are roughly 6,500 spoken languages in the world today, according to Which means there are roughly 6,500 ways to say one thing. Now, that is a lot of languages. Languages that many lost people speak.

In Acts 1:8, God commands us to share the Gospel “in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” This may mean getting out of your comfort zone to share the Gospel. That could mean leaving the country you grew up in. And that may also mean living in new environments and cultures where English isn’t spoken.

So sharing the Gospel may require learning one or more of those 6,500 languages.

I speak more than one language: English, Tagalog, Spanish, and even a little bit of Japanese. Because I grew up in the multi-cultured island of Saipan, I was used to hearing many different languages. I grew up hearing gospel messages preached in multiple languages. Although English was the language I heard the most, I did not lose sight of the countless Koreans, Japanese, Chinese, Russians, and other people who didn’t understand any English. For them, the Gospel must be preached in their native tongue in order for them to understand. That’s why we have missionaries who teach the Gospel to people within those countries so that they may also know the Gospel and can share it with their native people. Just as we have missionaries to our own people, I’m sure that other countries have missionaries to help spread the Gospel in their own countries.

Many missionaries have taken on the task of learning a new language in order to become a better bearer of the Gospel to the people God has brought them to. Take for instance Hudson Taylor, who learned the complex Chinese language in order to communicate the Gospel to the lost there, or Jim Elliot and five other men as they embarked on a mission to Ecuador and learned some basic phrases of the Huaorani people.

If becoming a better gospel witness to the people God has placed you with means learning a new language, then, by all means, start taking classes, teaching yourself, or using an online course. God has promised never to give you more than you are able to handle. If He has called you to a country where one or more of the 6,500 spoken languages are spoken, then He is able to help you through the learning process of the language.

So take advantage of the language classes offered by the University. Who knows? God may be calling you to be a witness to German, Spanish, French or Chinese people.