I was happy to see that PAW’s Jan. 11 edition was dedicated to languages. In a globalized world and in multicultural societies, knowledge of languages helps to facilitate communication and bring us closer together. In my work as a researcher with the INSEAD business school, I recently developed the Power Language Index (based on 20 indicators covering five opportunities afforded by language) as a means to measure the efficacy of languages.
Not surprisingly, English is (by far) the most powerful language. Mandarin, French, Spanish, and Arabic round out the top five. In a world where we are losing languages — and with it culture — it is important to remind people of humanity’s linguistic dividend and the need to preserve our tongues. Moreover, given the political climate where there is backlash (by some) against those for not speaking English in America, it should be reminded that although English is the most powerful language in our era, true power comes to those who learn a second (or third) language.