Ryan, fantastic write up as usual. I remember feeling similar feelings as a kid, and the more times I played this the more it stuck.
One thing I just realized reading this: I can't think of another game that uses a language barrier that you can overcome as world building. I think that has to be one of the biggest reasons why the Al Bhed in FFX feel so relatable. It's easy to feel like you can't understand a character when you can't speak their language, and being able to learn their language over time (as we also learn about the plight of the Al Bhed, Yevon, and everything else you mention) is such a good way to build empathy.
Really cool stuff.