There are many things that can make a language beautiful. The script, the people, the countries it’s spoken in, and the cultures it is associated with are all great examples. But perhaps the most obvious feature of what makes a language beautiful is simply the way it sounds.
In this post, we’ll examine some of the loveliest sounding languages in the world. Read on to learn more about the most beautiful spoken tongues.
What are the Most Beautiful Spoken Languages, Really?
The language of love. If there’s any language that stands out for its reputation for sounding sweet, it’s French. What other spoken language has the power to bring images of berets, croissants, and slinky black cats to the mind of the listener? There’s something so attractive about the prosody of spoken French that it’s even admired when it colors the English speech of a native francophone.
It undoubtedly helps that the language is tied to a country with which people associate the most romantic notions. But there’s something that exists purely in the way the language actually sounds that adds to it being nice to hear, and it has to do with euphony.
Euphony is simply the idea of something sounding pleasant. In French, there are rules to grammar and pronunciation that actually ensure that euphony is maintained. It’s highly prioritized. For example, the language employs syllable timing. This means that each syllable in spoken French sounds like it takes up the same amount of time, which makes for a stream-like listening experience.
Another example of euphony in French is that a vowel sound will never end a word and then start the next word. Instead, either one of the vowels remains silent, or a consonant is placed in between. This also adds to the seamless quality we all love about French.
This is another language that carries a ton of cultural association with it. Is it possible to hear Italian without imagining expressive gestures, incredible cuisine, or Mediterranean beaches?
Beyond these intangible connections, there’s also something decidedly musical about the way Italian speakers communicate. Where French may lean toward having a sexier appeal, Italian carries with it a certain enthusiasm that makes it special. A great deal of energy can be transmitted with Italian, even in casual conversation.
Some of the measurable qualities of Italian that make it nice to listen to are syllable timing, like French, and a low frequency of consonant clusters. There are many words in Italian that end in vowels, which lends an open, unrestricted quality to the language. Another interesting feature of Italian is that it doesn’t contain sounds that aren’t shared by multiple other Latin languages. This sense of familiarity may make it more pleasing to hear.
Spoken in modern-day Iran and also referred to as Farsi, this Indoeuropean language may not be as widely known as French or Italian, but it is appreciated by many as one that’s easy on the ears. It’s even known by some as “the French of Asia.”
While it isn’t a rare language — there are over 100 million people that speak Persian — it doesn’t necessarily have a strong reputation outside of the area where it’s spoken, and this could be an appealing aspect for some, giving it a slightly exotic flavor.
The balance of consonants and vowels in Persian is one of the things that makes it a beautiful spoken language. Maybe it’s one reason famous poet Rumi wrote most of his work in the language.
Singing in Persian also sounds particularly nice, and there are many that enjoy listening to music in the language even if they don’t speak it.
This is yet another Latin language on this list of beautiful spoken languages, but it’s here because it sounds a little bit different from the rest. In fact, it’s often quite difficult for the uninitiated to identify. The main reason for this is the existence of some sounds that don’t exist in its close relatives like Spanish and Italian.
One of the distinct differences we can point to between Portuguese and other romance languages is the presence of nasal diphthongs. These are sounds like the Portuguese “ão” and “õe” which make the /ɐ̃w̃/ and /õj̃/ sounds respectively.
There’s a notable difference in the pronunciation of Portuguese as it’s spoken in Brazil and as it’s spoken in Portugal, but they’re both beautiful. Perhaps the most obvious difference in pronunciation between the two is the way vowels are formed. In Brazilian Portuguese, vowels are pronounced with a more open mouth, creating a wider sound. As the language is spoken in Portugal, vowels are produced with a more close-mouthed, nasal sound.
There are beautiful elements that make every language special, but there’s something about Japanese that makes it stand out amongst other Asian languages, especially to those that don’t speak an Asian language themselves.
Once again, there are definitely some cultural associations at play here. Fans of anime and Japanese music or film will surely have positive connections with the language and the sounds its speakers make.
Another aspect that could make this language easier on the ears of speakers of non-Asian languages is that it is atonal and its vowel sounds are similar to those found in romance languages.
Since Japanese doesn’t really on intonation to convey the specific meanings of words — as is the case with Mandarin, Cantonese, and Vietnamese, for example — intonation can be used to express feeling instead, and it might not sound as harsh to the untrained listener.
The fact that it uses similar vowel sounds to those found in Spanish and Italian is another reason this Asian language could sound strange but familiar in a way.
You might find this language especially beautiful simply because it doesn’t quite sound like anything else. Unlike the languages spoken in neighboring Norway and Sweden, Finnish isn’t a northern Germanic language. It is of Uralic origin, which means it’s got more in common with Estonian and Hungarian.
Something that makes Finnish one of the more beautiful sounding languages is that it utilizes vowel harmony. This is a characteristic that ensures a certain symmetry with which vowel sounds are pronounced next to each other, and it adds to the musical nature of the language.
Another reason Finnish is beautiful as a spoken language could be the absence of “hard” sounds in its pronunciation. There is a higher concentration of consonants with softer sounds than hard ones, and this makes it easier to listen to.
Many people have some sort of familiarity with the Spanish language — it’s the second most spoken language in the world, after all. Whether the language makes you think of tacos or paella, tango, or flamenco, it’s a language that many tie to certain cultural ideas.
Spanish is an official language in 20 different countries, and that translates to a language that is spoken with a wide variety of accents. The diversity in Spanish accents is part of what makes this language so beautiful when spoken. You may have a penchant for the consonant-swallowing Chilean accent, or you may prefer the softer Peruvian style of speech; there’s likely an accent out there you’ll find favorable.
Spanish is a fast language. It’s spoken with the second-highest number of syllables per second, coming in after Japanese. This speed gives spoken Spanish a distinctive flair that can make it instantly recognizable.
The vowel sounds in Spanish are mostly very wide and open, giving the language an expansive feeling. you also won’t find too many consonant clusters in the language, which makes for rhythmic, fluid-sounding speech.
Like Spanish, Arabic is the official language in many countries, and that means that there are many different ways in which the spoken language can sound. To religious ears, Classical Arabic may be the most beautiful form of the language, as it’s the language you’ll find in the Quran.
Modern Standard Arabic is used as a common form of Arabic between Arabic-speaking nations, and it’s what you’ll hear on the news, but it isn’t spoken as a native tongue.
To some, Lebanese Arabic is the most attractive sounding of the many varieties, while Egyptian Arabic is one of the most widely spoken versions. Egyptian Arabic is also famous for the music and visual media it’s used in.
The sounds present in spoken Arabic may be more guttural than the ones English speakers are used to, but there are some very nice soft sounds in the language as well.
Urdu has elements that can be found in many other languages like Turkish, Sanskrit, Persian, and Arabic, among others. This melting-pot quality adds to the richness of the language and makes it one that is a delight to listen to.
Urdu is the official language of Pakistan and is recognized in the constitution of India. It’s known for having a soft quality when spoken, and it’s famous for being a language that’s perfect for poetry. It’s said that taking even the most mundane sentences and translating them into Urdu can make them sound like elegant pieces of art.
This language is also called Gaelic by people outside of Ireland, and it’s a beautiful spoken language. There are just over 1.5 million people that claim to currently speak this language in Ireland, making it the least spoken language on this list, but that doesn’t make it any less beautiful.
Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and not everyone will have the same feelings about the way Irish sounds, but many find it sweet-sounding and even musical. There is some breathiness to the way it’s pronounced that makes it stand out from others, but some people may not be overly fond of the guttural sounds that accompany it.