Foreign Languages as a Measure of Intelligence

Subject: Foreign Languages as a Measure of Intelligence
From: John Lee Bumgarner <jbumgarner -at- VNET -dot- IBM -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 8 Nov 1994 12:11:58 EST

In re Margaret Penman's post on 8 Nov 1994 in replying to Pauls' post
connecting music, language, and mathematics: I have a counter
anecdote: some of the mathematicians and physicists at my undergrad.
school were very active in classical and chamber music. I queried
my music mentor about their interest in music, and he replied that
mathematics and music were very connected, not only because they
were languages but also because music required mathematics to play
were languages but also because music required mathematics to play
well. To that point I had assumed that music was intuitive, but
he had a very well reasoned argument and backed it up by taking
a tune and breaking it down into a simple counting exercise, all the
while telling me how some tunes (2/4s) were simpler than others (6/8s and
other wild ones). I would offer one other observation counter to
Margaret's observation: although the mathematicans played well and
very precisely, I thought their interpretation of the music was
lacking a bit of spontaneity and feeling. On the other hand, I could
play with feeling but could not keep good time and was always admonished
for rushing or playing too slowly. BTW, my mathematical abilities are
nearly nonexistent. Is there a correlation? Hmmm. I would assert that
math and music are symbolic languages, but like any language usage, you
can be skillful in the language either analytically or intutively.
In my case in writing and speaking, I am more adept at language
intuitively (I write/edit by feel) and less adept at knowing the reasoning
than someone who knows rules that would support that decision. So, I don't
think that I could agree with the proposition that <communicators have
superb empathy, mathematicians have incredible processing powers/memories
(200MG) or that musicians are in touch with their souls, etc.> I would
say that it depends on the person, whether they are analytical or intuitive.
Some, however, may be both, and I envy them a great deal. Sigh.

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