Initially when mankind was concentrated in one small area of the whole world they spoke a single language. When, in their vanity, they decided to build a tower that would reach to heaven God ‘confused’ the language or caused them to babble so this became known as the tower of Babel (Gen 11:1-9). 

There are approximately 7,000 known and distinct languages, besides countless dialects in the world.  As a rule, it has been the Christians who have sought to put these languages into written form – the motive being so the Word of God can be printed for the benefit of believers of these language groups.

While the full Bible is available in only some 700 languages, some portion of Scripture exists in around 3,500 languages that are the first language of 5 billion people, out of the total world population of some 8 billion. On the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit fell on the early church believers and they began speaking in languages they didn’t know, for the Holy Spirit gave them this ability (Act 2:1-12).  Those who came from various nationalities heard their own languages spoken as they listened to the believers.

Throughout the book of Acts, speaking in tongues (or other languages) was often a sign of receiving the Holy Spirit (Act 10:46, 19:6).  This is a gift of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12:7,10,30, 14:2-40).

The sign on the Jesus cross was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek – the common lanuages of that time (Jn 19:20). The OT was originally written in Hebrew, while Greek was mostly used for the NT.

See also: Babel, body language, communication, literate/literacy, Pentecost, tongues.