« Great recent article from Dvorsky on ways to maximize persistence odds | Main | My first forray into being a bayesian Howard Hughes »

April 26, 2008


Hopefully Anonymous

Clearly I'm missing hebrew. I would probably place it before Swedish (although that's the toughest call I've had to make so far), and bump Swedish up to a category II language.

So it should read:

3. Japanese
4. Hebrew
5. Swedish

Class 3 languages would start with Russian.


Hebrew? Wasn't that mostly extinct for a while and then re-learned by a relatively small number of people who knew other European languages (usually German or Slavic ones, the latter of which are supposedly all pretty much the same). I also wonder why you ranked Japanese above Chinese. Some remaining ones you might consider are Spanish, Farsi and Arabic.

Hopefully Anonymous

1. By Hebrew I mean modern hebrew. The accomplishments of modern Israeli culture in science, engineering, applied mathematics, and and enterprise are hard to overstate -per capita they may dwarf the rest of the world. And most of these Israelis think and communicate primarily in modern hebrew.

2. I ranked Japanese over Chinese because japanese accomplishments in science, engineering, applied mathematics, and enterprise seem more impressive to me. If you think that's a mistake, please elaborate?

3. What's the relative state of scientific, engineering, applied mathematics, and enterprise accomplishments for the spanish, farsi, or arabic speaking worlds? I can think of a number of languages not on my list I'd rank above them, including brazilian portugese and Italian. I'm sympathetic to the variant of Arabic spoken by the Lebanese diaspora, because of their significant accomplishments. It's not clear to me Spanish or Farsi should be above polish, ukrainian, or modern greek, in terms of what primary speakers are accomplishing in those languages vs. the others. However, I'm not sure if communities speaking any of these languages meet the threshhold to think that they have the potential of offering anything of value in terms of increasing one's ability to think intelligently and creatively after English. In contrast, it seems likely to me that my Class II and Class III languages could allow something to think differently, and conceptualizes problems and ideas differently, but very intelligently in ways that could supplement their ability to think in English.

But of the ones you mention, Lebanese Arabic seems the most likely to me to offer added value. It doesn't make my list because it seems much more likely to me that their strength comes from elements or accidents of culture and geography that are separable from their language -also, I wonder how many of them do their challenging intellectual thought work in French rather than lebanese arabic.

In contrast, I'm confident many of the thinkers in my Class II and Class III categories do their challenging thought work in their native languages (I suspect that's less likely to be the case for south asians, which is a big part of why those languages filled out the bottom ranks of Class III).


If you're trying to maximize intelligence, I'm not sure that learning the languages spoken by intelligent people will be any good. Immigrants whose grandparents spoke Japanese, Chinese, Russian, Hebrew, etc., are still very accomplished in academia, even though they don't speak the language. You might try to learn languages in which lots of interesting research is done, but I'm not sure which those would be -- English is once again the default.

However, perhaps learning an unusual language could help. I've read that bilingual people have different results on personality tests administered in different languages (e.g. in Chinese, they are more collectivist), so learning the languages of unusual cultures could help. Unfortunately, most unusual cultures specialized in the wrong niche and died out, so you would have to balance that against the number of speakers of the language still in existence. I guess I would go with Japanese, Arabic, and Hebrew. I have heard that Korean is exceptionally difficult for English speakers to learn unless they start very early, so if that works out it could be interesting.

a young curmudgeon

As a native Dutch speaker, I can attest that it is a great language to know. Reading Dutch golden age works in original language is amazing. I believe Simon Schama called it an "earthy" language somewhere, which I think is apt. If you want to feel the culture of the marshy lowlands with its low gray skies, rebellions on the outskirts of the Roman and Habsburg Empires, yet lacking the puritanical urges of the English, try Dutch.

You must really love history though, because there's not much left of this culture.

Thesis Writing Help

i think you should contact http://www.educationalwriting.net/ i hope they will resolve your issue.

The comments to this entry are closed.