However in the assembly I would rather speak five words with my understanding, that I might instruct others also, than ten thousand words in another language. (1 Corinthians 14:19 WEB)
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In my life, I’ve been heavily involved in electronics and communications media. From suitcase powered radios to rotary operator assisted car phones which filled the trunk with electronics and tubes to cell phones that fit into the palm of my hand to smart phones, suitcase computers, laptops, notebooks and tablets. In each case one of the objectives of the device was to carry information from one place to another. In most cases, it was to allow two or more people the ethereal ability to communicate across long distances without physical connections.
As we moved from verbal loquaciousness to SMS the bandwidth allowed to communicate our message was reduced from limitless expressions of proper grammar and vocabulary to 240 characters or less. What might be expressed, discussed and clarified in several minutes of verbal banter has been redacted to basic simplistic monosyllabic abbreviated gobbledygook. I used to carefully consult a dictionary while composing even a simple letter to insure my spelling, word choices, and grammar were succinctly carrying the precise entirety of my message to the recipient. It was a combination of both form and content which carried a clear thought or concept.
For centuries mankind carefully crafted its many languages to insure one person understood what the other person was communicating. In some cultures, the dogged inflexibility of the language and its resident grammar police have stifled the etymological progression necessary to encompass the radical changes in modern life brought about by modern technological developments. In other cultures, the adaptability of the language, inclusion of any workable word from any background for clarity, made the language highly flexible in a cross cultural interaction. Thus, some languages are preferred over others for international encounters and business.
Then along comes the modern, highly technological generation, not well versed in their own language much less any other, who thrive around the convenience of instant messaging. To accommodate this new limited bandwidth, they develop their own micro language distilled from the few roots of the mother tongue they remember and peppered with regional dialectical expressions. To the generation which preceded them it seems disrespectful to the nuances of their historical language. To the generation following them it’s a stepping stone to further distill an expansive and often cumbersome language into even smaller packages.
What can be done? Not much of anything. This sort of dictionary death has developed around the world from generation to generation. As a missionary, I’ve dealt with language barriers over and over. Sometimes I’ve been successful in discerning the Rosetta stone aspects of different tongues to communicate on a fundamental level. Other times . . . not so much. Some think we’re moving toward a global tongue. Some think social media has provided a platform for language to morph into an abbreviated conglomeration of multiple cultural languages and dialects understood at least at a fundamental level by all.
I’m not a linguist and apparently neither was the apostle Paul. I agree with his assessment of tongues and languages. It’s better to find those fundamental few words which express God’s love and the propitiation for our salvation than to expound fluently filling tome after tome. Which dictionary can we consult to share God’s grace today?