I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue. (1 Cor 14:18-19)
Paul is not making a mathematical statement that five clear words are better than 10,000 unknown ones, but is speaking in hyperbole.
10,000 words is the product of a couple of hours of uninterrupted speech. Yet even a sentence of five words or less could convey a more powerful message: “Christ loves you!” or “Christ died for sinners!” or “I forgive you, beloved sister!” or even a prophetic “Your sick baby will recover.”
Whether it is supernatural speech or everyday words said in the power of the Spirit, it’s all evidence of God’s grace to his people.
It is worth noting the number of words within this epistle: in the original Greek text it contains roughly 7,300 words; in the NIV about 8000.
“Speaking in tongues, speaking in English,” by Gary S. Shogren, PhD in New Testament Exegesis, Seminario ESEPA, San Jose, Costa Rica