Sweet Talk, Ctd

A reader joins the discussion on the comparative appeal of languages:

Count me as one vote against the beauty supremacy of French – though it may just be my frustration with either reproducing or understanding its pronunciation. I was surprised to read Dreher’s opinion that swept all East Asian tongues under the same blanket! In college I switched from studying Japanese to Chinese in part because I grew enamored of the sounds I overheard in my Chinese-speaking friends’ conversations (Japanese to me sounds elegant, but not really beautiful). And while Mandarin Chinese is music to my ears (except in the sibilant Taiwan accent), Cantonese actually makes my stomach turn a bit.

I also find German rather gorgeous, especially the way it tends to be spoken by women. I can’t listen to any Scandinavian language with a straight face.

English went astray, aesthetically speaking, with its hard A and I sounds … but it indeed has many lovely specimens, like the word “resplendent,” for example. And English’s melting-pot nature also confers the advantage that one can select words originating from different language families for their sonic and cultural associations. Basic examples would be using tons of straight-from-Latin words to sound legalistic, old Germanic ones to be punchy and down-to earth, or French cognates to sound poetic and fussy.


Your post on how languages sound reminded me of one of my all-time favorite clips from the Catherine Tate show. I’ve probably watched it a dozen times, and it still makes me laugh every time: