Linus Torvalds and multilingualism

I’ve read that Linus family is from a Swedish-speaking minority in Finland.


As I am. Linus and I were actually school mates. But he was/is a couple of years older and we were never friends. My ex was a journalist and used to work with Linus’ mother. I think Linus gave a computer course that my brother attended at the University of Helsinki. It’s a small world. :slight_smile:


There is a theory that Linus’s bi-lingualism made it easier for him to learn programming. Without wishing to impose “racial” characteristics but cognisant of the realities, has anyone noticed that , in general, there seems to be relatively few prominent programmers who are decidedly mono-lingual?
I am quite sure that last statement could have been phrased better…

Perhaps we should look at a list of the most prolific and influential programmers and check for a correlation between the number of languages they spoke by the time they were in further education and their eventual output?

THis looks like going off-topc - I should create a new thread…

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There aren’t that many monolingual people in the world to begin with.

I haven’t studied the subject, but I do believe learning several languages as early as possible is healthy exercise for the brain. And I think what used to be called the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis makes sense.

languages have nothing to do with math in contrast to programming
I know 5 languages but not a shit about programming


Depending on when you leaned these languages and how often you switch between them, important pathways are opened between your synapses that would make it much easier for you to learn to program ( and do other stuff that involves pattern-matching amongst others)

Fairly soon someone who really knows about this subject will be along to correct me.

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There is nothing wrong with being wrong. Persisting against empirical evidence and logic is, well, not so good…

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I’d beg to differ on that - but my view may be skewed as a hegemonised English monoglot. >90% of the UK population and a similar no of the non-Hispanic USA population for starters. Most Turks who do not live in the tourist areas as well.

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You mention just a few and not very populous countries.
I’m not sure about the veracity of this source, but this is what I’ve seen.

Im only quoting those that I have personal experience of.
The hordes of Turks would be surprised to hear one of the few Finns describing them as “not very populous”. :slight_smile:
In the more populated countries, many are monoglot, just not the same glot. Within India and China many/most of the non-elites speak only one of the many languages within these borders.

I’ve never been to China, but I traveled through India twice. It’s pretty fun when you sit on the back of an Indian’s motorcycle and meet another Indian that the driver can’t talk to but has to make a cell phone call to somebody to translate the most basic on-the-road stuff for him. Personal experience is not really relevant, though.

If you come from some village in Tamil Nadu, move to Delhi to study, and then work in Bangalore, seeing as you were colonized by English speakers, you already have four languages that are important to you.

Africa is also a big “country”, as a certain president put it.

This is an interesting subject, but also a complicated one. What counts as one language is often mostly a political question. Considering how big the differences are even between the Swedish dialects spoken even within Finland, I think it would make perfect sense to see Swedish, Norwegian and Danish as one language. Historically they sort of have been. Now we have different flags. As far as I’m concerned, the Scandinavian countries could all start using the same written norms, but keep speaking our separate “dialects”. Finnish is, of course, very different.

I understand many Norwegian speakers just fine, but I have trouble with some Swedish spoken just a few hundred kilometers north of here. Some people from our capital city have trouble understanding the old-timers where I live now. I have no problems reading Danish. But spoken Danish is…


Bøkmal? or is it an umlaut?

is the Bøk part “book” as in written “Scandanavian”?

Also you may know and be able to confirm/deny an urban myth…
Approx 10% of Finns are Swedish speakers I think. Is it true that the main Post Office building in Helsinki has a big neon sign that says “Post” and every 10 seconds an ‘i’ illuminates for 1 second to respect the proportions of the speakers of each language? I have no idea where I picked up this little bit of info.

You should try understanding people from the country areas around Aberdeen. We call these people NEEPs (as in turnip). Nothing pejorative - it stands for North East Ethnic Person. @happybeing and other southerners would be entirely lost with those folk. Though it is possible that they may be more mutually intelligble to inhabitants of the Frisian islands.

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I really don’t know about the post office. The number of Swedish speakers in Finland can be easily found on the interwebs. It’s about 5 %.

Detailed explanations about umlauts and whatnot require more text than I care to write at the moment. Everything can be easily found on the net. Suffice it to say that the English “book” is almost certainly related to the German “Buch” and the Swedish “bok”. Different vowel mutations are common in inflections of the word.

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Yep so that confirms that the most mutually intelligible of the Scandinavian dialects is west Norwegian aka “book speak”

I believe what you have encountered is a social subset of Turks. Not all Turks really sell kebabs. Not all Indians sell curry. And not all Englishmen are football hooligans…


I believe “my” Swedish is actually the most easily understandable Scandinavian. Our speech is pretty slow and somewhat archaic, but not as archaic as Icelandic. Those vikings are really difficult to understand.

“Bokmål” is a written standard, not a spoken one.

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Not at all. I found Turks to be, on the whole, probably the most friendly welcoming people I ever encountered, especially those away from the coast and tourist areas. It was only after I lived and worked in Turkey for nearly a year that I could point at a couple of them and say “Not the nicest bloke I ever met” - and that in a thoroughly anglicised tourist village…
And the stories about Turkish polis are vastly exaggerated. Again I found them helpful, welcoming and looking for ways to do you a favour. Only place I have ever been arrested and asked “Tea, coffee or a beer?” – A long story with a happy ending - for me, not the twat who had me arrested. He went out of business :slight_smile: So did I but that was my fault. Apart from the fact I lost nearly every pound I had, I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Turkey and loved 99.99% of those I met.
Wont go back till that asshole Erdogan is gone and I get clarification about the worryingly large sum I think I still owe to the Turkish taxman - My friends there tell me its a very different place now than it was in 2005.

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Speaking of football hooligans, I once saw a documentary about this international “hobby”. There was this Russian guy, shaved head and all. When they asked him about vodka or something, he said “No”. He doesn’t drink. He is in training. Those Russians don’t fool around. They are some scary people. I’m only half. :wink:


Some of the most prominent programmers, innovators have been at least bi-lingual from an early age. Is this a notable or even measurable characteristic? – Discuss.