Many have the idea that every time the gift of tongues is mentioned in the New Testament, it is always the supernatural phenomenon experienced at Pentecost in Acts 2:1-11. This is not correct. In the New Testament two different types of supernatural manifestations are referred to as “Gift of Tongues”.
THE GIFT AT PENTECOST – ACTS 2:1-11
This phenomenon was unique in fulfilment of the prophecy in Joel 2:28 and Isaiah 28:11; and served as testimony for the beginning of the New Covenant of Grace based on the salvific work of Jesus. Until then, the idea of true worship and religion was tied up to the revelation given to Israel in the Torah and the Prophets, the circumcision and to the descendants of Jacob (Exodus 19:5; Deuteronomy 7:6-8; 14:2); but now, the New Covenant was opened to all nations of the Earth, and God was calling everyone in their own language (Acts 2:5-6).
In this opportunity, the Holy Spirit had descended on humans as it had never happened before (John 14:16-17; Joel 2:28); and the gift of tongues gave the capability to the 120 and more disciples present at the upper room to proclaim the opening of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every nation, Hebrew or Gentile (Acts 1:8, 15). These were by necessity, intelligible known languages of the time.
There is a debate whether the Spirit gave the disciples the capability to speak in other languages, or they spoke in Aramaic and were understood in all languages; and whether this phenomenon can be repeated.
To the fist observation, that is something no one will ever know for certain, but the main point is that a miracle happened there of great symbolic significance, and the Gospel was heard by many people in their own languages.
About the second observation, there is nothing in the Bible that suggests this miracle cannot be repeated under similar circumstances. In Pentecost there was a specific reason for it, and it happened; however, God is powerful to make this happen again if He sees it necessary.
THE GIFT OF TONGUES IN CORINTHIANS – 1CORINTHIANS 14:2
The gift of tongues that St Paul speaks in 1 Corinthians 14; however, is of a totally different modality.
Paul recognizes the legitimacy of the gift (1Corinthians 12:4,10), and mentions that it is not understandable to humans and that it requires interpretation (1Corinthians 14:2, 5, 9), not even by the very person who is experiencing the gift (1Cortinthians 14:13-14).
The reason for this gift, is no more to evangelize as it was in Pentecost, but to pray to God and praise Him, directly from our spirits, through the Holy Spirit, with sounds and groans that bypass the limitations of the intellect (Romans 8:26-27; 1Corinthians 14:2, 14, 28).
The Gift of Tongues is one in nature. It is a gift from the Holy Spirit, but it can be manifested in the form of intelligible human languages, as it happened in Pentecost, or it can be manifested in unknown forms of speech and sounds, as St Paul says in First Corinthians, with the purpose of expressing feelings and ideas that cannot be expressed properly through everyday language.