1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: Duolingo
  4. >
  5. Combining Ancient Languages a…


Combining Ancient Languages and Mathematics

Another use for language learning – https://www.rnz.co.nz/national/programmes/ninetonoon/audio/2018715681/understanding-maths-to-infinity-and-beyond

Dr Clemency Montelle combined an understanding of languages with tracing the history of some of the key concepts in mathematics. To do this she learnt Latin, Greek, Sanskrit, Cuneiform (Sumerian), and Arabic.

In her own words "I am a mathematician with research expertise in the History of Mathematics. I combine a sound reading knowledge of several arcane languages and read primary source mathematical manuscripts from antiquity to investigate questions related to their content, context, origins, and their theoretical and practical ramifications, and consider issues of the transmission of mathematical knowledge from culture to culture."

I'm so envious. I would have loved to have done this when I was younger – and get paid to do it as well!

(And if you listen to the audio will also get two good examples of how an educated person speaks New Zealand English.)

September 30, 2019



Thanks for this very interesting link.

One of the interesting things about languages that I have always loved is how numbers are expressed in different languages.

Like how the French count. Or how the Japanese count. If you enjoy this kind of stuff you may like these links.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WM1FFhaWj9w Problems with French Numbers - Numberphile

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RMXVrHBpCKI ALL Japanese Counters in 16 minutes - Learn Japanese Grammar

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l4bmZ1gRqCc 58 and other Confusing Numbers - Numberphile

The last one here is so cool, you won't believe how different cultures/langues count and do math.

And the history of math is so cool too.


And the history of math is so cool too.

You know what else is cool? Your comments! Thank you for your interesting contributions to the forums. Btw, I am kind of OCD with numbers. I'll have to come back and watch those videos sometime soon. :)


Thanks for posting this interesting convergence! My daughter loves math, introduced our fam to the works of Tom Scott, Matt Parker, and more. She'll think this is cool too!


A little bit of a story from my own life ... when I first went to University (a long time ago), I needed to take two years of a foreign language. I knew (a) I wanted to major in math, and (b) I wanted to take a language that had an alphabet, where that alphabet was different from what we use here in the US. There were two options for me where I went to school, Greek and Russian ... so I went to the math library on campus and browsed through all the shelves to see which the library had more of (I wound up taking three years of Russian at that University).

Two years later, I was back in that same library browsing the shelves for Russian reading material - and came across a translation into Russian from what was apparently an Arabic text on Astrology, which, if I was reading it correctly, was itself a translation from Greek (chuckle).

It's funny how stuff turns out (and funny what you can find in the foreign language section of some math libraries) ... all these years later, I still love math, and still love languages. Judit, THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for this post!


Must have been an ancient Hindu mathematics text written in Sanskrit that was translated to Arabic. Thanks to Duolingo and other such services we are learning a lot of languages but still, the Indian languages are neglected. The Hindu numerals are still being called Arabic numerals. I don't see a Sanskrit Duolingo coming soon.


When I learned numbers in Vietnamese, I compared them to English and Spanish to detect any possible similarities. Six, seis, sáu. That's it as far as I can tell. The letter "s". But going through many languages in Google Translator, there seems to be a lot of similar sounding words for "six".

Then there are the "anumeric" people who have no numbers in their language. Some indigenous people in the Amazon have no words for numbers. They would have a difficult time suddenly coming into our culture. We would lack what they consider basic knowledge for surviving in the Amazon and most of us would not last very long if suddenly transported there. Here's an Live Science article about this: https://www.livescience.com/58900-anumeric-people-with-no-words-for-numbers.html.


Thanks for the link, that is good stuff.

The last YouTube video I posted mentions this.


This link to French counting was absolutely wonderful. I would not have thought that I "needed" it, but I learned an enormous amount watching it. Kelvin, I appreciate your taking the time to post it! Judit, thank you for a great thread.



Glad that you enjoyed it. We often think that we all think about numbers the same way, but it is amazing the different ways that different cultures deal with numbers.


Thank you for this very much interesting link.


I don't know if it's just me but I think learning languages, especially Latin, has helped me a lot in math, especially in post-algebra math like differential equations.

Learn a language in just 5 minutes a day. For free.