Thursday, 9 February 2012

That Girl Is A Genius

Would you rather be considered a genius or a fun person to be with? Being (mistakenly) thought of as a genius is not a good thing. Of course, it flatters the ego to know that people see you as an intelligent human being. Being “just” intelligent doesn’t automatically turn a person into a genius. Geniuses write wonderful books that last for centuries, they create and innovate, they change the world. Now, if you’re “just” intelligent and someone (mistakenly) calls you a genius the question arises: which attributes are excluded by the concept of being a genius? Have you ever heard of a fun genius or a nice genius? How about a friendly genius or a compassionate genius? The genius who is also a femme fatale? The only adjective that seems to accompany the word genius is in fact mad. And who in their right mind would like to be seen as mad? Of course, there are people (read: Sheldon Cooper) who don’t care about being sociable and socially “normal”. Being nice is just a burden. I dare say, though, that the majority of people (who know that their IQ is indeed average) would rather prefer to live a socially good life instead of scaring away people with their so called genius.  

One interesting observation is that some people tend to associate Russian with some kind of super high IQ. Of all the languages I have studied, Russian is the one that has the most “ohs” and “awws” and “oh, how very clever you are”. Russian is a wonderful language, don’t get me wrong, but I wouldn’t say it’s a lot more difficult than any other language (I personally find French really hard). The first glimpse of Russian tells us that it’s different. “Isn’t it difficult to learn the alphabet?” is a common question. “Can you really read in Russian?” is another one. It seems that the superficial difference (the alphabet) makes people believe that the Russian language is a different species altogether and that those who’ve decided that learning Russian is worthwhile are somehow intellectually superior. Another factor that might contribute is the perceived “differentness” of Russia as a country.

What does it take to learn a foreign language? A lot of work and dedication. Talent helps but it’s not prerequisite. IQ, I would argue, is more important for expressing oneself properly than actually learning the language. Having a good memory is an advantage, too.

What does it take to learn multiple languages? Pretty much the same as above. Maybe a little bit less work if the languages are similar. This also requires a lot of passion, since many languages are not necessarily a necessity. Start learning Finnish just for fun-  that’s passion! High IQ, however, has nothing to do with it.

Of course it is possible to be both a genius and a fun person, but my suspicion is that “normal” people see “geniuses” as different, strange and someone they don’t have a lot in common with. By assuming that someone is a “genius” (even though this might not be true) a wall is built between two people and interaction becomes more difficult.

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