At one time, all of the people on the face of the earth spoke the same language. Because of the obvious advantages this produced in collective communications, they put their heads together and made an attempt to make a construction, called a tower but probably something much more than that, that could reach to the abode of the elohiym (gods), which is in the sky (heaven). In order to defeat this attempt and see that it would not happen again, the languages of man were confused by Yahuwah. (See B'ereshiyth [Genesis] 11:5-9) There is much to support this happening in that most languages show many words with common roots and very few known languages are considered to be totally unrelated to any other known language. By this I do not mean written language, but rather spoken language.
This is a situation, so far as the people having one language, that will be repeated in time to come. As stated in TsephanYahuw (Zephaniah) 3:8-9, the day is rapidly approaching when Yahuwah will restore a "pure lip," which literally means a language that has been clarified, so that all people everywhere can call upon His name with one consent. I fully believe that language is Ibriy in its oldest form.
There are several words that are rendered as "tongues" in the scripture, but the major word rendered tongue(s) in the Ibriy is lashown which literally means the tongue. By implication, and in the context of the passages where it is used, it obviously and dynamically means a language. In the Greek the same thing occurs with the major word being glossa which has the same meaning as the Ibriy word lashown (above).
The Greek word glossa additionally, depending on the context of the passage, can specifically mean that the language being spoken of is one that is not the speaker's native language. This has led the translators of the King James Version to add the word "unknown" in several passages in an attempt to clarify the passage as meaning that the language being spoken was not the native language of the one doing the speaking.
Unhappily, because of the translator's clarification, many people of today have come to think that it means the language being spoken was not known anywhere on the earth, but was a special "language of God" and therefore really "unknown." In some cases they call it a "prayer language" and think that "baptism" in the Sacred Spirit gives them this special language that only they can speak and only Yahuwah can understand. This is not supported in scripture, and as a matter of fact, is warned against.
For every "tongue" spoken by the delegates and others on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2 there was someone listening who understood that language. Note that all of the people present when the delegates were speaking in these tongues were Yahudiym (Jews) from "every nation under the sun" (See Acts 2:4-12). Even though the speakers were mostly all of Galiyl (Galilee), every person there heard the words of the speakers in the language of his native country.
The same thing happened in Acts 10:46 and 19:6. The language being spoken was understood by someone who was listening. Nothing "unknown" about it at all.
Sha'uwl (Paul), in his first letter to the Korinthios (Corinthians), talked expressly about the gift of speaking in other languages. Note that he did not say anything about a "prayer language," but that has been assumed from what he said in 1 Korinthios 14:2. Here apparently some had started using words that those around them could not understand. Sha'uwl admonishes them to not do that in public as people would think them to be insane and this would bring discredit on the assembly. Still, if someone was speaking in this manner, someone had to be there to interpret what was said, so therefore it could not actually have been an "unknown tongue." Read the entire chapter of 1 Korinthios 14 for all of the details surrounding who should speak in tongues and when they should do so.
Remember also that the edification, or building up, of the body of the Anointed must be the Child of Yahuwah's major thrust in whatever he does. Everything he does must bring honor and praise and splendor to the name of our Father. Unhappily, when various people in some "churches," usually women in violation of the scriptural commandments, begin to "speak in tongues," it has nothing in common with what we see in scripture. What I have seen instead is a sham that purports to be "unknown tongues" but is really gibberish that even the person speaking doesn't understand and no one around them can really "interpret."
A prime example of this is a woman in a Pentecostal church called Calvary Temple in Jacksonville, Florida always saying, "Shana-na-dee. Shana-na-die" over and over as her "unknown tongue." Yet the preacher always came up with an interpretation from that phraseology that fit his sermon perfectly. She may have "spoken in tongues" for a minute or two, always repeating that same phrase, but the preacher's interpretation would last for at least fifteen minutes. She always began to speak at about the same point in the sermon and the preacher always used the "interpretation" as a summation of his sermon for the day. Events like this are very low on the credibility curve.
Don't misunderstand. There are some people who genuinely think they are "speaking in tongues" according to the scripture when they do this. Sometimes they are in an ecstatic condition that they think is caused by the Sacred Spirit.
Other times, and I have seen this with my own eyes, women in the service would fall on the floor and foam at the mouth while saying strange words that nobody understood. As I watched them they would open their eyes slightly and peek around to see if anyone was watching. If someone was they multiplied their actions. If nobody was they stopped and got up. That they were faking is obvious to anyone who looks closely. These people are trying to make other people think they are "good Christians" because they can "speak in tongues." What they fail to realize is that they are trying to impress the wrong ones. Yahuwah knows the heart and cleaning their heart up is what they should be working on instead. He is the only One we need to impress (2 Timotheos (Timothy) 2:15, 1 Keph (Peter) 3:21).
Some say that the gift of tongues has been done away with because of the passage of 1 Korinthios 13:8-10. They say this because in their opinion "that which is perfect" is the Scripture. They have some very strong arguments in favor of this belief, but the scripture defeats even the strongest argument if that argument is false.
If the Scripture was in fact "that which is perfect," then we would have no need for Yahushua to return. We would have everything we need. This makes me believe "that which is perfect" is Yahushua Himself. I know of nothing man made or man translated that can be perfect. Since we do not have the original autographs of the scripture, how can we know that what we do have is perfect? Plus, reading a little further in that section, verse twelve puts a much better understanding of the time frame of "perfection" (completion) of which Sha'uwl is speaking. That is AFTER the return of Yahushua and not a moment before.
Regardless of all of the above, speaking in a language that you otherwise do not know, or tongues, is a true gift of the Spirit (1 Korinthios 12:10) and is as valid in the assembly today as it was on the day of Pentecost almost two thousand years ago. It is real, even if there are people who fake it or do it in ways contrary to scripture. When it does occur in a scriptural manner you will know it to be true and that it is from Yahuwah. There will be a specific purpose for it happening and that reason will be obvious.
Some say that speaking in tongues is evidence that you are in a condition of "salvation". If you cannot or do not speak in tongues, you are not in the body of Christ. They get this from Markos (Mark) 16:17, below.
Markos 16:17 And these signs shall follow them that believe. In My name shall they cast out demons. They shall speak with new tongues. . .
If you are really a "Christian," they say, you must speak in tongues. What they don't say is that according to this same verse, you must then also cast out devils. By reading the whole passage you will see that there are other conditions set on this too that they would deny. If you must speak in tongues, you must also drink poison, take up serpents, and heal the sick. If doing one is absolutely necessary to be a "Christian," then all of them must be absolutely necessary.
Markos 16:15-18 And He said to them, "You go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He that believes and is immersed shall be saved but he that does not believe shall be condemned. 17 And these signs shall follow them that believe. In My name shall they cast out demons, they shall speak with new tongues, 18 they shall take up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them. They shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover."
You have to believe.
You have to preach the gospel throughout the world.
You have to be immersed.
If you have met these conditions, you will show the signs spoken of in the rest of the passage. Every immersed believer can show these signs, but not all will do it on demand or when they want to. Remember that everything we do is for the edification of the assembly and not to show others that we are immersed believers. Our lives should be showing that we are His children in how we live them.
Sha'uwl clarified the points concerning gifts of the Spirit in 1 Korinthios 12. Here he says quite plainly that everyone has the capability to have every gift available, but that not all will necessarily have them all. This is the true condition of His children today. Those who earnestly desire specific gifts will have them if it is in the will of Yahuwah. He does not hand out these gifts and abilities so that we can impress our friends with what we can do, but for the purpose of edification of the assembly and to bring honor, praise, and splendor to His name. Note that every time tongues is mentioned as being the result of the Spirit falling on someone that the result is the speaking of the wonderful works of Yahuwah.
So if you truly have the gift of "tongues," your gift will be used appropriately for the edification of the assembly, and you will not be in control of when the gift is exhibited or what is spoken. This is called being in the Spirit. It can and does happen.