Speaking in tongues does not need to be interpreted unless the tongues that are spoken have a message from God that other believers need to understand. This means that you can speak in tongues without an interpreter. Speaking in tongues that requires interpretation is one where the person speaking is relaying a message from God for the people listening, but for someone speaking in tongues to edify himself, there is no need for interpretation.
I am baptized with the gift of speaking in tongues and interpreting them. Since I have experienced both sides of the gift, I will explain the answer to this question with the wisdom God has given me.
Speaking in Tongues Without an Interpreter
Personal Affair with God
When the question of an interpreter being around when someone speaks in tongues comes up, the first consideration should be if the tongues being spoken need interpretation.
Not all tongues that people speak need interpretation. Apostle Paul wrote in 1st Corinthians 14 that whoever speaks in tongues speaks to God.
God understands tongues and so if someone is praying to God in tongues, God understands him and there is no need for an interpreter.
Most Pentecostals speak in tongues without an interpreter because they understand that they are speaking to God who can understand what they are saying without the need of an interpreter. God understands the tongues that we speak which means that if someone is praying to God in tongues, other believers don’t have to know what he is saying. That is why many Pentecostals speak in tongues without an interpreter.
However, it should be noted that these tongues can still be interpreted. I have been able to understand some of the tongues that people were praying directly to God but of course it was their business with God.
Sometimes the Holy Spirit encodes the prayer that someone is making to God that even if you have the gift of interpreting tongues, you can’t understand.
This often happens if the matter the person is praying for is confidential.
Therefore, speaking in tongues without an interpreter is okay if the person speaking in tongues is praying directly to God.
Message from God
There are times when God speaks a message to a congregation through tongues. In such cases, an interpreter is needed.
I have been an interpreter of tongues on several occasions when I was part of a congregation and God sent a message through someone speaking in tongues.
From what I have experienced, God sends messages through someone speaking in tongues when there is an interpreter.
However, there were occasions when someone spoke in tongues a message from God but no one came forward to interpret. I believe there was someone who had the interpretation but chose not to come forward with it.
I have also had occasions where I heard God speak a message through someone speaking in tongues but I never went forward to tell people the message.
Interpreting tongues is a gift but you choose whether to tell people the message or keep it. There is a time when God wants everyone to get the message and there are times when God leaves you with the decision whether you will speak the message or not.
If we are in a room praying and I hear several people praying different things to God, will I tell everyone in the fellowship what each of them were praying for? I don’t think so.
Interpreting of tongues is just like walking through a market; you will hear all manner of things being spoken. But even though you understand what different people are saying, you only pay attention to whatever took you to the market.
Interpreting your own Tongues
If you have the gift of speaking in tongues and you can interpret tongues, do you need an interpreter for you to speak in tongues?
I am in that position; I speak in tongues and I also interpret. Do I interpret my own tongues? Yes, I do.
But in some cases I am usually tired so I don’t bother to know what the tongues I am speaking mean.
If you can speak in tongues, you are eligible to interpret them. But of course interpreting seems a bit harder than speaking.
Even for me, I learned to speak in tongues several years before I began interpreting them. I was curious to know what I was speaking and I prayed that I may understand what I was speaking.
Those who claim that an interpreter must be around for people to speak in tongues, what would they say in my case?
I understand that in a congregation there may be need for someone to interpret tongues but in most cases it is not needed.
The number of times I have encountered situations where there was need to interpret tongues is countable. Most of the time people speak in tongues, get their answers and go away.
Apostle Paul wrote in 1st Corinthians that whoever speaks in tongues edifies only himself unless there is an interpreter. That is true.
In fact, it is encouraged that people speak in tongues for self-edification. Why wouldn’t you want to edify yourself?
The challenge comes if there is someone in the fellowship who does not speak in tongues. In such a case, is it needed for someone to interpret the tongues being spoken for the individual who does not speak in tongues?
I have been in fellowships where we were speaking in tongues and there were a few believers who didn’t have the gift.
In fact, one of the members of the fellowship who speak in tongues walked to me after the prayer session to tell me about his friend who didn’t have the gift.
In his perspective, it was odd for his friend to be in the prayer session.
My perspective was different; instead of feeling odd for being among people speaking in tongues when you don’t, why can’t you ask for the gift also? If you can’t beat them, join them.
A number of people who do not speak in tongues have attended prayer sessions where we were speaking in tongues and they asked us to pray for them to receive the gift.
That is also how I got the gift; I attended a prayer night vigil where majority of the people were speaking in tongues. I didn’t want to be left out. When they made a call for people to go receive the baptism, I went.
While sometimes we may have to help those in the fellowship who do not speak in tongues with interpretations, it is hard work.
Life is easier when everyone is speaking in tongues and getting edified. After all, it is not that this gift costs a million dollars; any peasant can get it if he desires.
Self-edification tongues don’t need interpretation. If you speak in tongues for an hour, you will be edified whether you knew what you were saying or not.
For someone who can’t speak in tongues, I would advocate that the person asks for the gift. If it is interpretation they need, they can also ask for it.
But as for speaking in tongues without an interpreter, it is okay.