How would you rank “important” languages? If asked to rattle them off, many people start with English, but after that are reluctant to go further. Important how, they ask. One approach would be to look at people and money: surely a language is important if it is spoken by lots of people, in countries with great wealth (and presumably, therefore, power).
But in December came a new approach. A group of scholars approached the task by first looking at how languages are connected to one another, rather than viewing them in isolation. They then decided to see if this was a good predictor of how many famous people spoke a given language. If a language is well connected to others (a “hub” language with many bilinguals), its speakers will tend to be famous. And the names of the connected languages turn out to be rather interesting.