Stefano the Polyglot
Professional Teacher
Could we learn better with smart people?

Mensa, the largest high-IQ society, now has a group to match language learners. Could we learn better with smart people?

I’m an enthusiastic language exchanger: I do it 1-to-1, either in person or online; and I do it at language exchange events, either sitting at a table with a notebook or standing holding a wine glass. It’s a fair exchange of time (not money) and it’s fun. I’ve found many language partners on Italki,com, and I’ve just tried a free app called Hellotalk, where I also found a couple of language partners.

However, it’s hard to find a motivated and skilled partner. I was lucky to have a Chinese language partner with whom I could practice on Skype 2-3 times a week for a year, and we still keep in touch. With other languages I was less fortunate.<o:p></o:p>

Then, I came up with an idea: if you’re into learning languages, you’re probably intellectually curious and you might be eligible for membership to a high-IQ society. I recommend you to join one if you can, because you can find members abroad or visiting your country who will be eager to talk with you and they make thought-provoking conversationalists. Intellectually gifted people love learning stuff, including learning languages, and they make good study partners!

I happen to be a member of a society called Mensa. In May 2015, I founded a Language Exchange group inside Mensa, to match bright language partners. Its concept is simple: you study a foreign language and you need someone bright to practice? Find a member who speaks that language and studies yours, then teach one another on Skype.

The group is for members only and works on two platforms: a website and a Facebook group. On the website, members from all over the world can sign up and browse the profiles through a simple yet powerful search panel. Similar websites exist to match language learners, but this is the only one for high-IQ learners. Modeled after but with only its basic features, the website allows users to sign up and search through other members’ profiles. Interaction between members is immediate, in the sense that the staff only keeps the website running and doesn’t stand between them. To keep in touch and discuss language-related topics, members also join the Facebook group.

I’ll tell you something about Mensa, hoping that it will sound less weird than many think it is. Founded in 1946, with over 120,000 members in 100 countries throughout the world, Mensa is the oldest and largest high-IQ society.  It’s non-political and free from all racial or religious distinctions. It provides stimulating intellectual and social opportunities for its members. Membership in Mensa is open to persons who have attained a score within the top 2% of the population on an approved intelligence test. There is no other qualification for membership eligibility.

You might be wandering what kind of people are members of Mensa. There is simply no one prevailing characteristic of Mensa members other than high IQ. There are Mensans for whom Mensa provides a sense of family, and others for whom it is a casual social activity. There have been many marriages made in Mensa, but for many people, it is simply a stimulating opportunity for the mind. Most Mensans have a good sense of humor, and they like to talk. And, usually, they have a lot to say. Mensans have ranged in age from 2 to more than 100, but most are between 20 and 60. In education they range from preschoolers to high school dropouts to people with multiple doctorates. There are Mensans on welfare and Mensans who are millionaires. As far as occupations, the range is staggering. Mensa has professors and truck drivers, scientists and firefighters, computer programmers and farmers, artists, military people, musicians, laborers, police officers, glassblowers--the diverse list goes on and on.

Every time I visit a new country, I get in touch with local members and make tons of intellectual friends. Mensa even has a service to find accommodation, events or just company for members traveling abroad. Membership fees are cheap and the value of connecting with valuable minds is priceless.

Go and take the test! ;)

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Jan 28, 2016 10:34 AM
Comments · 10
By the way Stefano, your post paints you as a pompous fool. Valuable minds, don't make us laugh! 
February 11, 2016

Even though I have a couple of Uni degrees and have never been known to be someone who can't tie her own shoelaces, I would find Mensa intimidating and snobbish.  Sort of the way I feel about the fur coat set, they are not my type of crowd and don't feel comfortable around people with that much disposible cash that they need a chauffer just to go buy a loaf of bread.

February 11, 2016

High I.Q often equals low social intelligence.

If you want to improve your language and communication skills, there might be value in finding exchanges with high IQ partners..... and low ones..

to fill in the gaps


February 11, 2016

I have to say, Stefano, your English is excellent.  [Incorrect phrasing, but it is what we actually say :  the grammatically correct version would be  'I have to say, Stefano, that your English is excellent' ].  I write this to illustrate Jean's point [above].

I don't share James' view; there's nothing wrong with wanting to talk to 'like minds' [people who share your views, ideas or interests].

If your other languages are on a par with your English  i.e. fluent Japanese, and good Chinese, Korean, French and Spanish, you are indeed 'gifted' in languages.  For the rest of us mere mortals, though, our fate is to plod on, savouring the small gains we make from so much time and effort, and dreaming of the day when we reach proficiency.

You have every right to be proud of your achievement, but spare a thought for the lumbering mass of humanity trailing behind you in the distance.  Humility can make a virtue of privilege.

February 12, 2016
High IQ often means socially inept. Just try finding a teacher you get along with, it's easier to learn if you both get on with each other.
February 11, 2016
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