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Word of the Week: Wissensdurst

Have you ever had a burning desire to learn something new? Do you have an archive of never-ending questions? Then you’ve most likely experienced Wissensdurst. In German, the word Wissen means knowledge nand Durst means thirst.

The only way this need can be satisfied is by obtaining the knowledge that you so profoundly crave. Occasionally the word Wissenshunger is used to describe ones hunger for knowledge. Although the two words are often used interchangeably, Wissensdurst describes a more urgent need, since humans can survive longer without food than without water.

Let’s take a look at an example where an unquenchable Wissensdurst recently played a major role in the education of a young British girl.
Heidi Hankins, a five-year-old girl from Hampshire, has an IQ of 159, which is approximately the same as that of Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking (both had IQ scores of 160 and an unquenchable Wissensdurst). In comparison: the average person has an IQ score of about 100.

At 18 months, Hankins taught herself to read using a computer. When she was two years old, she was reading books, painting and performing tasks meant for seven-year-olds. At age three, she was learning math. One year later, Hankins had her IQ tested and was admitted into Mensa, the largest and oldest IQ society in the world.

“I got her the complete set of the Oxford Reading Tree books when she was two and she read through the whole set of 30 in about an hour,” said Dr. Matthew Hankins, the girl’s father.

The German media described Hankins as a genius with an insatiable Wissensdurst, constantly seeking new knowledge to keep herself occupied. Hankins is clearly an extreme case, but anyone can exhibit Wissensdurst by craving an answer to a burning question or displaying curiosity, inquisitiveness or a unique desire to learn. So next time you’re on a quest for knowledge, head to a library and tell your friends and family that you have been overcome by a powerful Wissensdurst that must be satisfied similarly to the feelings of thirst and hunger.

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

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