“Although trying to cool their ardor for congregational tongues-speaking, Paul does not disparage the gift itself; rather, he seeks to put it in its rightful place. Positively, he says three things about speaking in tongues, which are best understood in light of the further discussion on prayer and praise in vv. 13-17: (1) Such a person is “speaking to God,” that is, he or she is communing with God by the Spirit. Although it is quite common in Pentecostal groups to refer to a “message in tongues,” there seems to be no evidence in Paul for such terminology. The tongues-speaker is not addressing fellow believers by God (cf. vv. 13-14, 28), meaning therefore that Paul understands the phenomenon basically to be prayer and praise.” – Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians (NICNT), p. 656, emphasis mine.
This is a significant statement by one of the premier NT scholars in the world. Why? Because Fee is not only a considerable NT scholar but a Pentecostal as well! Fee is helpful here because many Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians tend to see tongues as either communication between God and man (when uninterpreted) or communication between man and man (when interpreted). We are told by some Pentecostals that there are multiple functions to the gift of tongues: (1) tongues as the “sign” or “evidence” of the “Baptism of the Holy Spirit,” (2) one’s personal “prayer language” that can occur both privately and corporately, and (3) a “public” tongue, which is interpreted for the congregation and is seen as a “message” to the church.