There are nearly 7000 languages in the world today and many people talk about which languages sound the best and which ones sound the worst. Of course, this is completely subjective. Just like one’s taste in music, one’s taste in favourite phonology (sound system), there is no objective basis for it. Sadly, it seems that many lists on best & worst language have less to do with the actual phonology and more to do with perceptions about the country or people that use a language. Think of Italian, it is a beautiful language (or so says the internet, see below), is that because it sounds better or because it conjures up images of Italy with beautiful landscapes, architecture, etc. There is no clear answer to that, mostly, because people probably don’t want to honestly say, “yes, I prefer Italian to German, because when I think of Italy I think of nice things and when I think of Germany I think of bad things.”
The reasons behind why people prefer one language to another aside, it is interesting to see people’s rankings of languages. Looking around the internet it seems that the list of “most beautiful language” goes something like this:
The worst might look something like this:
Strangely, it seems that all five of those languages that many on the internet say are the worst are claimed to be the best, by many others. Again, that goes to the utter subjectivity of this topic. One thing is clear looking around the internet on this topic, Romance Languages, are beloved by seemingly everyone. Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Romanian, never seem to fail to be somewhere on the best sounding languages lists. Maybe it’s the name of the group “Romance languages,” which people might mistakenly believe means these languages are romantic (small-r). That belief is incorrect, they are called Romance languages in reference to Rome (Romans), i.e. Latin. Nevertheless, these languages make people think of flowers, suave lovers, and romantic destinations.
In the end, all languages can sound beautiful or terrible. This has more to do with the intent, style, or type of speech one is listening to. Think of one’s favourite song (in English) and now compare that to one’s least favourite politician giving a speech (in English); one sounds remarkably more beautiful than the other and that has nothing to do with the language it was in but the use of that language. Let’s take the internet’s favourite most beautiful language, Italian. Compare this song by Italian singer, Noemi, Un uomo è un albero ; to this speech by odious and hated Italian dictator from 1922 to 1943, Benito Mussolini, MUSSOLINI SPEECH TARANTO. Again, one sounds much more beautiful than the other despite both being in the same “#1 most beautiful language in the world, Italian.” Now let’s take a language people love to call “harsh” and “rough-sounding,” Russian (it really is neither of those things, e.g. it’s 33 letter alphabet contains 11 vowels, meaning one third of the Russian alphabet is vowels and vowels are those nice, flowing, phonemes made far away from those “harsh, rough” glottal sounds). Compare this Russian cartoon, Маша и Медведь, to this angry Russian shouting, Angry Russian. Hopeful, the point has been made. Use is what makes a language truly more or less beautiful.
However, there is nothing more fun than making lists, so here is my personal list of languages I think sound the best:
- Icelandic (example: Ég elska þig)
- Russian (example: Я люблю тебя)
- Hebrew (example: Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen in Hebrew)
- Navajo (example: Nemo Hádéést’įį’
- (1) Castilian Spanish [i.e. Spanish of Spain] (example: Yo no me doy por vencido) (2) American Spanish (example: Que Pena Me Da)
- Persian [Farsi] (example: Farsi ( Persian) Poem by Molavi Rumi Balkhi)
- Náhuatl (example: When a tongue dies)
- Lithuanian (example: Lithuanian Lullaby)
- Finnish (example: Näin kulutan aikaa)
- French (example: Sommeil)
This list is just my personal and subjective opinion. It was very difficult for me to decide on which languages to put where; mostly, because I find almost every language I hear to be beautiful and melodic. Furthermore, as the reader can see from the examples, I chose nice usage of the languages (songs, mostly), which as stated above helps make them sound more beautiful.
What are your thoughts on the most (or least) beautiful languages? I would love to know in the comments below!
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