Gustavo Ballvé on November 21st, 2009
Food for thought, Mental models, Science

Reading the book Empires of the Word – A Language History of the World, by Nicholas Ostler, is a great reminder that learning languages is a relevant part of the process that Charlie Munger defines as “make sure you go to bed at night a little wiser than you were when you woke up”.

From the book, in Chapter 1: “Languages frame, analyse and colour our views of the world. ‘I have three hearts’, claimed Ennius, an early master poet in Latin, on the strength of his fluency in Latin, Greek and Oscan.” – We couldn’t have said it better. Earlier in the chapter Mr. Ostler quotes perennial favorite Wittgenstein: “The limits of my language are the limits of my world.” – Indeed.

Go on. Break those walls.

We could frame this scientifically as well. If it is true that bilingual/ multilingual persons have a few advantages over monolinguals, could the opposite be true? The “answer” so far comes from the realm of fiction – brilliant, life-changing fiction. Remember George Orwell’s “1984” and the section on “Newspeak” – that part alone is worth the book’s price many times over. The idea was that reducing/ limiting language could by itself ultimately reduce human intelligence.

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