Controversial Opinions: Which Language Do People Think Is The Most Beautiful?

This article is in partnership with Day Translations.

I was reading The Guardian, as you do, and stumbled upon this collection of readers’ opinions about languages – more precisely, which language they consider to be the most beautiful.

Sifting Through Almost 300 Comments

The Guardian asked its readers which language they thought was beautiful and the question to start the discussion received almost 300 replies.

Some readers commented that “language” is a construct that can be associated with not only to spoken and written idioms, but also with mathematics, for example, or computer coding, or music.

One commenter made an interesting point, saying that when you are not fluent in a language and you don’t understand its meaning, you might find it sounds beautiful but the beauty stops there as you can’t fully appreciate all the nuances of that language. In other words, it’s a fairly superficial appreciation.

Reading through all the comments is made partially easier by The Guardian itself, whose staff picked a few of their favourite replies.

Some of The Guardian’s picks include a comment about the Finnish language, which to a reader sounds like birdsong and, similarly, another reader who mentioned Tok Pisin, a pidgin English variation that is spoken among some Indonesian people.

One reader enthused about the musicality of many languages, including the gibberish that young pre-school children have, as they mimic what the adults say and make up words that have a similar intonation to actual words but that mean absolutely nothing.

On the same theme of birdsong, one commenter enthused about Sylbo, a language spoken in the Canary Islands (I can see a pattern there!), mostly in La Gomera, that has many whistling sounds.

Then there were some interesting observations about how we judge other languages depending on where and how we were brought up: it’s a matter of perception, how we hear other languages being spoken or how we read their written form, how influenced we are by social norms and our own personal taste. There is no common standard for beauty, which is also why the answers in the forum were so varied.

Let’s Crunch Some Numbers

I won’t bore you with all the minute details but I created a spreadsheet to keep tabs on all the languages being mentioned in the comments. However, I still need to pick up on a few things I noticed.

First of all, The Guardian displayed on the page that there were 278 total comments, but from that number 157 were replies to the initial question about the most beautiful language and the remaining 121 were follow-on replies either agreeing or disagreeing with a commenter.

The total number of individual languages mentioned was 65 but only 53 were actual languages, as 12 entries were more abstract concepts such as love or computer languages like Java, COBOL and Python.

After doing all my calculations, it turns out that my own mother tongue, Italian, was the most popular with 11% of all the mentions, followed by English (sometimes including specific accents, particularly from the North of England) with 8% of the total, French with 6% of the total, Welsh with 5%, then Japanese, German, Spanish and “love” as a language at 4% of the total.

Honorable mentions include some Native American languages such as Cherokee and Navajo, clicking languages from South Africa like Xhosa, then island languages like Thai, Hawaiian and Fijian. Blended languages Esperanto and Interlingua got one mention each. Last but not least, Klingon, Vogon and Gippog, invented languages featured in works of fiction, got a nod each.

Also, sign language was mentioned a couple of times, highlighting the fact that there are visual forms of language that are more inclusive. Talking of visual languages, Semaphore got one mention – it’s the way of communicating at a distance using flags or your whole arms.

Final Thoughts

While many people in the comments, particularly native English speakers, spoke at length of their romantic view of other languages such as Italian and French sounding very appealing, there were some insightful points of view that make you think about how certain biases will steer us into believing one language is more musical than another depending on who is speaking it and how the tone of voice can influence our perception.

In other words, a very simple and basic question brought a wide variety of answers as well as useful insights into other cultures.