Yes, speaking in tongues can be interpreted. The Spirit of God not only gives us the gift of speaking in tongues but also the gift of interpreting tongues.
However, interpreting tongues is not as easy as speaking in tongues. This is true when you consider that many people can speak in tongues but only a fraction can interpret tongues.
Also, not all tongues can be interpreted. There are tongues whose meaning God intentionally conceals from us. Usually, when God conceals the meaning of tongues, He has good intentions.
In the Bible, God revealed the meaning of tongues spoken on the day of Pentecost to many people that were outside the upper room. I’m sure those people had never asked for the gift of interpreting tongues but they could interpret the tongues spoken because they were in their native language.
But when God sent a message through the hand that wrote on the wall, the tongues written could not be interpreted by anyone in the kingdom except Daniel. God intended to glorify Daniel through the interpretation of the writing on the wall.
Speaking in Tongues that can be Interpreted
Though speaking in tongues is one gift, it is diverse. The Bible in 1st Corinthians 13:1 talks about tongues of men and tongues of angels. It is clear that tongues of men and tongues of angels are not the same.
In another place, the Bible tells us that the Spirit of God prays for us with groans that are too deep for words. That is another type of tongues.
When it comes to interpreting tongues, the tongues of men are the easiest to interpret. The tongues of men are the earthly languages that we speak.
Basically, if tongues are spoken in your native language, you will understand them straight away. This was the case on the day of Pentecost.
I have witnessed someone speak in tongues of men. It happened in the church I used to attend. A young lady spoke in tongues which happened to be Yoruba. Nobody in the church knew it was Yoruba except the visiting pastor who was a Yoruba native.
The pastor thought that we do speak Yoruba but when he realized that nobody knew Yoruba except him, it became clear that the message spoken was his. In awe, he knelt down and worshipped God.
Apart from the tongues of men, tongues that come from God can also be interpreted. Tongues that come from God are usually messages, instructions and prophecy.
These are the type of tongues that Apostle Paul addressed in 1st Corinthians 14. Tongues from God need to be interpreted because they carry a message that the church needs to hear.
God sends messages in tongues partly because if people hear a message in a foreign tongue, they are more likely to pay attention than if it is in their native language. Remember the saying ‘A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown’.
Also, a message sent in tongues takes away blame from God in case someone needs to be blamed. The person who interprets the tongues uses his own words and so is accountable for the consequences of the message even though the message came from God.
Tongues from God can be interpreted and should be interpreted because they can only serve their purpose when they are interpreted.
Speaking in Tongues that can’t be Interpreted
When a believer prays in tongues to God, those tongues can’t be interpreted. The Bible tells us clearly in 1st Corinthians 14:2 that whoever speaks in tongues speaks to God and no man understands him.
The tongues described in 1st Corinthians 14:2 are those that we speak when praying to God. They are usually mysteries. The fact that they are mysteries means they can’t be interpreted.
God is the only one who can understand such tongues. Because God is mysterious, whatever is mysterious is normal to Him.
The Bible also mentions this type of tongues in Romans 8:26 when it says we do not know how to pray as we ought to but that the Spirit of God intercedes for us with groans that are too deep for words.
The fact that the Bible says the groans are too deep for words is proof enough that those tongues can’t be interpreted.
When I pray in tongues, sometimes I understand what I am praying for but I can’t find words to describe it. I’ve also been able to understand what other people were praying for in tongues but I couldn’t put it in words.
I do have the gift of interpreting tongues but I know tongues spoken to God can’t be interpreted. You can know them but you can’t describe them. It is more like what Apostle Paul described; ‘things that are not permitted for man to say’.
Most speaking in tongues that happens in church today is directed towards God and cannot be interpreted. The main purpose of this type of speaking in tongues is to edify the person speaking.
Speaking in Tongues that can be Interpreted but doesn’t need to be Interpreted
Tongues of angels that were mentioned in 1st Corinthians 13:1 can be interpreted but they do not need to be interpreted. Those types of tongues serve their purpose even if they are not interpreted.
Tongues of angels are instructions that people give to angels. Remember angels are ministering spirits. I have written a detailed article on this topic.
If you have the gift of interpreting tongues, you can understand what instructions someone speaking the tongues of angels is giving but of course those instructions are for angels and not for people.
The uniqueness of speaking in tongues of angels is that the person speaking them must understand them. How can you give instructions you don’t know? How will you know they have been fulfilled?
Tongues of angels are only given to believers who have matured in the gift of speaking in tongues. The tongues of angels give a believer the ability to ask angels to do things without necessarily asking God.
God permits this to happen because He trusts the believer. Is it not the same thing that happens in our families? When a son grows up, he is allowed to give orders to the servant that his dad employed without necessarily asking for permission from his dad.
Can Speaking in Tongues be Interpreted?
Some tongues can’t be interpreted but those that need to be interpreted can be interpreted. I hope you have understood the explanation I have given.
If you are keen, the Bible gives hints that tongues can be interpreted but it also hints that tongues can’t be interpreted. But once you know that tongues are different, it becomes easy to understand.
Those who argue that tongues must be interpreted and those who argue that it is not necessary to interpret tongues can now end the debate and go home. I have closed the case!