Polyglot Roman emperor Charles V declared: “I speak Spanish to God, Italian to women, French to men, and German to my horse.”. We all prefer some languages over others—usually, we feel different things when listening to the same romantic expression in different languages, such as is the case with Ich liebe dich in German, Ti amo in Italian and ‘ahabak in Arabic—, so, maybe, just as Charles V did, you think that German doesn’t sound very melodic, perhaps you think that Italian sounds too harsh, or, possibly, you don’t like the Arabic H. In this article, we’ll be answering the following question: which is the most beautiful language, and why?
Which is The Most Beautiful Language, And Why?
According to sociolinguists, what makes some think that there is a most beautiful language out there is not determined by its sounds, as there is nothing in a sound in of itself that can make a language more, or less attractive. Dr. Vineeta Chand from the University of Essex explained in an article by The Guardian that “some sounds are more common across the world but that doesn’t link to the specific perceptions we have about French and Italian. The idea that a language is more melodic, romantic, poetic and musical are derived from those communities and regions.”.
For native speakers of Romance languages, some sounds in foreign languages are nonexistent in their languages and are thus hard to perceive. Languages that have different structures, such as those that use tones (e.g. Mandarin Chinese and most languages in Sub-Saharan Africa), or sounds which don’t exist in their native language are perceived as less melodic or fascinating to those who aren’t familiar with them.
But, what is it that makes a language sound so attractive that a person would come to the conclusion that it is THE most beautiful language in the world?
We find a language attractive depending on various reasons, of which we can find:
- The socioeconomic and mobility benefits knowing the language brings. For example, in recent years, Mandarin Chinese has been gaining popularity as it is spoken in a region with rapid economic growth. Mastering Chinese is thus something to look into in terms of gaining work opportunities.
- The ability of using the language to speak with as many people as possible. To many foreigners, English is very attractive because it is widely used around the world, something which allows us to communicate outside a small regional context. And it’s true that knowing English means easily being able to make friends with people from other countries and being able to get by in any part of the world.
- How the countries and the people where the language is spoken are believed to be. Taking Italy as an example, it is seen as a great country to live in; it’s associated with the sun, mountains, the sea, nice food, friendly people, and beautiful women. Because of this, many attribute Italian as a language of love and think that it sounds beautiful, attractive and soothing.
- Its culture and past. If the culture and/or history of a country is seen as something a person enjoys, this will render the language attractive. Japan is such a country. People who read manga, who like the idea of ninjas, or who are interested in the latest technology tend to view Japanese as an attractive language, often saying it’s both cool and rich.
- Being exposed to the sounds of the language. We explained earlier that the more a language differs from ours in terms of sounds, the less we tend to like it. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the opposite is also true; the closer the language is to ours, the more we tend to like it. However, just because a language isn’t close to yours, doesn’t mean that you’re doomed to disliking it for the rest of your life. The more you are familiar with a language, the nicer it will sound. Many people have learned a language which, before meeting their life partner, they didn’t feel attracted to. But the more they heard it, the more they wanted to learn it. As Luca mentions in this video where he speaks 6 languages, love is a great motivation for learning a language!
At the end of the day, nobody is right when they say a language is the most beautiful language, as we are all biased. As you have seen, there are many things that influence our tastes for a language, and more could be added to this list. Here are some possible other factors I came up with on top of my head which could influence someone to like a certain language, maybe even being their main motivation for learning a language: having a nice experience with a person from a certain country, having a favorite song in a certain language, and the original language of a religious book.
So, what makes a language more attractive than another? Just about anything! Just like some people like a color over another, or a hobby over another, there are countless possible factors which could change our perception of a language. It’s all due to personal taste. One thing’s for sure: all languages are beautiful in their own way!
I hope you found this article interesting, and that it has motivated you to explore new languages. The MosaLingua app for learning Russian and Chinese will soon be launched, this tool will offer you the perfect opportunity to familiarize yourself with these two language as well as discovering their beauty!
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This post is also available in Español.