The Kapali Carsi

Are Foreign Languages Useless?

Turkey has a current account deficit because Turks don’t save, as I argue in this week’s Hurriyet Daily News column. Turks don’t save because… well… they speak Turkish!… That was one of the arguments in one of my recent HDN columns:

Although he is being considered for the World Bank presidency, a very diplomatic position, economist Lawrence Summers never ceases to amaze me in his capacity to offend billions in a sentence or two.

After outraging half of the world by suggesting that the under-representation of women in science and engineering could be due to a “different availability of aptitude at the high end,” Summers offended almost the entire globe this time by stating that Americans don’t need to learn a foreign language since the rest of the world would soon be fluent in English anyway.

So there you have the first two paragraphs, and the motivation, for the column. You can read the whole thing here. I really enjoyed writing it, so I hope you will enjoy reading it… For a change, I don’t have much of an addendum, but let me explain how I ended up writing about a non-macro topic:

I became interested in the subject when I read the Vox article by one of the authors of the book I discuss in the column; interested enough in fact to get the book and read it non-stop during a long afternoon (have a look at this review if you are interested). The very same night, while I was skimming the blogs I follow, I stumbled upon the Keith Chen article, thanks to Alea, I think. I thought the book and the paper fit really well, and it was just a matter of sitting down and writing the column after that:)

BTW, that paper quickly became famous in the blogosphere. While the first references were non-econ. blogs, well-known econ. bloggers such as Worthwhile Canadian Initiative, Chris Blattman and Mark Thoma got wind of it as well in the next 2-3 weeks after my column was published. So we could say I was one of the early adopters in the econosphere:)…

Finally, I should say I am wondering if Josh and the other web-folks at RGE Economonitor will put this post on the main page. Not that I think it is my best column to date, and that it definitely deserves a place there, but because I am really curious under what category they would put it!:) So let’s wait and see…

3 Responses to “Are Foreign Languages Useless?”

Emre Deliveli edeliveliMarch 25th, 2012 at 7:34 am

I don't argue that his statement is inaccurate at all; it is just a motivation for the column. If he had said that English will be the only language on Earth, I would disagree with him, but he merely says everyone will be fluent in English- which is a bit of an exaggeration, IMHO, but the trend is definitely that way…..

GUESTMarch 28th, 2012 at 10:54 am

That's exactly true, however, a new challange will occur soon! Russian and Arabic will be mıre important IMHO.