Dialogue and profession

THE MIRACLE OF LANGUAGE

History consists of many facets and lives on by the multitude of stories. Stories, however, have to be narrated by those who have experienced them. Where people meet one another by exchanging stories and narratives, they make a twofold experience: On the one hand, it is wonderful that people can listen to and understand each other. On the other hand, it is painful when people do not understand each other and do not have any possibility to come to an understanding. For both there are good reasons.

At first sight both - understanding and non-understanding - have to do with the miracle of language, the human ability to speak. It is a characteristic of being human that they can communicate with each other in speech. Even if a person because of illness is unable to speak, there are analogous means of communication which can be learnt. However, even persons who can speak often cannot understand because there are many languages, and not all people speak the same language. Everyone has his mother tongue; all other languages are, at first, foreign languages.

In the Bible the situation of languages has been explained in two great narratives. When the people of Babel tried to become like God and to seize his power by building a tower, God demolished the tower and confused the language of the people, "so that one will not understand what another says" (Gen 11:7). Here the knowledge of language is a way to the tree of knowledge by which man becomes like God. Conversely in Jerusalem after the resurrection of Christ a great miracle of language happened on Pentecost; all people present were amazed while listening to Peter, "because each one heard them speaking in his own language." They asked: "Then how does each of us hear them in his own native language?... We hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God." (Acts 2:6ff.11) In virtue of the Holy Spirit all present were able to understand. If we transfer it into our own deliberation, we may well say: "Trans-lation" occurred.

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