The Most Beautiful Language in the World?

I read this article recently, suggesting that Italian is the most beautiful language in the world. I was intrigued, thinking that obviously the idea of beauty in any terms is going to be subjective, but I could also see why many people would choose Italian, so I read on.

As you can read in more detail in the article, there are couple of arguments in favour of Italian being the most beautiful language. The first is that it’s more inspired by creative writers than others. This is mainly because Italy was unified relatively recently, in the mid-19th century. Before then, there was no official, administrative Italian through which a centralised government communicated. Rather, people in each region spoke their own quite distinct dialects. Even today, it’s not uncommon to hear people use these dialects. Because of this lack of “official” Italian for a long time, most people using Italian were writers and poets, who therefore influenced the development of modern Italian.

It also seems that the mechanics of the language itself are inherently attractive to many listeners. The language features many more vowel sounds compared to English, for example, and most words end in vowels, creating an open, rolling sound. Italian also has a higher variation in tone than English, creating the impression of a sing-song staccato rhythm. And having a quick look around the internet, it seems that a lot of people agree with the writer of the article.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, French generally seems to be considered the second-most beautiful language, and I suspect that if you polled only English speakers, we’d choose French as the most beautiful. We like the rhythm of Italian, but we seem to find French much more romantic. It shares some of the features of Italian such as a Latin basis and long, round vowel sounds. But, it’s also a little more similar to English, with more consonant clusters, and particularly more words ending in consonants. These consonants tend to be much softer than in English, like the N in Macron, for example. And maybe that’s why we’re so attracted to French: it’s got the sing-song openness of Italian, but is also familiar to us because it’s closer to English (and we’ve borrowed more French words too). I think French sounds like a romantic version of English then, with similar words, only with softer consonant sounds and seductively drawn out vowel sounds. It’s exotic, but still familiar.

I’m not sure what I’d pick as the most beautiful language. I see the appeal of Italian, and it can sound beautiful, but I’m also quite used to it perché parlo solo un poco’, ma more so because I’ve heard it so much as a teacher (good luck trying to get 15 hyperactive Italian 14-year olds to speak English in class). I probably would’ve chosen French in the past, but now I’m certainly much too capable in that language not to find the sound of it pretty commonplace.

What about English though, which is what I’m supposed to be writing about in the first place anyway? Not many people seem to consider English to be the most beautiful language in the world, and I’m not really surprised. Not that it sounds bad, but there’s such a variety of English dialects and accents that someone may like one form of the language, but not others. There’s a world of difference between the way, for example, a doctor from the leafy suburbs of South Dublin uses English compared to a sheep farmer in a remote spot of New Zealand. Plus, English doesn’t have such a unified series of sounds compared to French or Italian. We have many words with similar Latin rhythms, but they’re combined with more monotone words of Germanic origins. You can easily imagine what French, Italian or German sound like, even if you can’t speak any of them. But what about English? What does it actually sound like? I think it’s too much of a mish-mash of different influences to have a distinctive, recognisable sound, and that makes it hard to consider beautiful.

Of course it can be beautiful, in the right hands. Just listen to a great actor recite Shakespeare. Personally, I’m also very fond of Charles Dicken’s writing voice. So much of what he wrote just sounds beautiful when you read it. I think that’s often the case with Joseph Conrad too, particularly impressive considering he was writing in his third language which he learned in his twenties.

So while English might not always sound beautiful, I think it’s still beautiful in the range of possibilities it offers for different modes of using it, either to write or to speak. And with the right person using it, it can be truly bello, magnifique!

What do you think the most beautiful language in the world is? Italian? French? English? Or something else entirely.

44 thoughts on “The Most Beautiful Language in the World?

    • I won’t ask what that is, in case someone who speaks it reads this! I have one or two too that I won’t mention :). I like the sound of Japanese too, it feels minimalist and direct, like a lot of Japanese design in general.

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  1. As an Italian, I agree it’s a wonderful language, and not just in its sound and musicality, but in the variety of words, so much that it gets frustrating to realize how many times there isn’t a corresponding word in English to convey its meaning or shade.
    As a neutral reader, I’ve always had a soft spot for French instead (I was barely a teen when Vanessa Paradis took over the European music scene, don’t judge me…) which it’s definitely very sweet.

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    • It’s interesting how English, for all its words, still lacks so many concepts that other languages have terms for. Like “la bella figura!” I don’t think we could translate that directly to English: maybe it’s a uniquely Italian, and explains why the language sounds so beautiful.

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  2. I’d honestly argue that Harsusi has been one of the most pleasing languages to my ears, although I’ve never heard a version of it without Arabic loanwords. There’s a video of the language being spoken on YouTube actually but nonetheless it’s a close relative of my ethnic language but I do find it prettier.

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      • Actually the main differences are based around the realization of the emphatics (ejectives as opposed to pharyngealized) and there’s a much larger vowel inventory — and I cannot tell you how complex South Arabian vowel systems are with just a comment lol but I’ve had native Arabic-speaking friends tell me they can’t comprehend a word of the language although some if it makes sense to me. What throws me off the most is the correlation of Tigrinya’s /t͡sʼ/ to Harsusi’s /ɬʼ/~/ɮˤ/.

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  3. It is hard to say which language is the most beautiful as our ears/brains are very influenced by the sounds that we have been subjected to at a young age and also by memories and associations of ideas… Having said this, I personally think that English is the coolest, the most intriguing, the most adaptable and the most uniting language in the world. It is versatile, lively and sounds so different, even among natives.
    I like the person I am when I speak it, you know what I mean?
    I also speak fluent Spanish and it is a beautiful and strong language but when I speak I feel like a vaguely rougher, sunnier version of me 😀 nothing like English.
    On a different tack, I use to be able to say a few words of Arabic and I really loved the feeling of it, so mysterious, so fundamental… the sound of a vast ages-old culture that has seen the birth of our civilisation. If I had more time, I would study more of it.

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    • I definitely love the variety of English: I can speak with someone from England, from the US, or another Anglophone country, and we’d all speak with very different rhythms and vocabularies. I’m really intrigued by Arabic, as I hear a lot of it from Arabic-speaking students. I’d like to study it a little sometime, because it seems so different from English, and also sounds a little bit like the Irish language, especially with the sounds made in the throat.

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  4. It would be so hard for me to choose the most beautiful. I love French, Russian and Swedish. Three very different languages, yet each beautiful. I love English of course! Who could deny Shakespeare? Although I think Shakespeare OP (original pronunciation) is the loveliest.

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    • I quite like Russian, it never seems like an obvious choice for a beautiful language, but I always like it when I hear it. I think it’s all the soft consonants.
      But I don’t think anything can match the poetry of Shakespeare’s best work.

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  5. I’d also argue for Spanish. I’m working on my fluency. And I mean, honestly, I could listen to my professor speak it all day. She’s not even native. I also appreciate its rhythm in music; I have a whole playlist devoted to Spanish music.

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  6. The Romance languages always sound musical to my ears. Although with Spanish it depends on the accent: the Castilian accent can seem a bit harsh, whereas the Argentinian accent is lovely (maybe because it was influenced by the Italian immigrants).

    I also really love the sounds of Xhosa — that part of the South African national anthem always gives me chills.

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  7. Italian, really?…. I’d say English & French… Spanish is my first language and English my second language.
    It Also depends, as you say… French spoken in rural areas might sound quite bad… Same applies to French in Quebec…. 🙋

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    • I guess your native tongue also plays a part in what languages sound beautiful to you. Maybe for you Italian is too close to Spanish to sound exotic, but for English speakers Romance languages are a little like English, but mostly feel and sound quite different.

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  8. All languages are beautiful in their own unique way and this contributes to our diversity however the most beautiful language for me is Sanskrit, being the most ancient and peaceful. Leaving a link for you.

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  9. […] And we don’t deny that, though we’re catching up, we’ve not always had a great culinary culture in English-speaking countries. That’s probably why we use cuisine instead of cooking when we want to talk about good cooking. Or perhaps, if it’s really good, we’ll extend to haute cuisine (high cooking) or gourmet (gourmet). Doubtless that’s also because we like the sound of French. […]

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