If you’ve ever felt goosebumps listening to someone speak, then you’ll know just how moving language can be. After all, language is how we humans express ourselves to others. But what, exactly, makes a language beautiful? Our brain sets off stimulating chemical reactions whenever we find something pretty or pleasing. Language can trigger such responses through its melodic intonation or expressive imagery.
That said, liking a specific language is extremely subjective. There’s no arguing that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so every language out there has unique potential to be admired. We fancy ourselves big language enthusiasts here at Babbel, so we’ve gathered a few of our personal favorites to get you excited about the diverse beauty of language!
This tonal language spoken by the amaXhosa people of South Africa is a great place to start. IsiXhosa is one of the country’s 11 official languages. It’s best known for the lovely tongue clicks seamlessly integrated into spoken word. Take a listen to this famous tongue-twister!
In total, isiXhosa has 15 different click sounds. The letters C, Q and X represent the three most common ones. Though tricky for non-native speakers to master, each click has a distinct sound. Some resemble familiar, everyday noises. Q clicks, for example, are formed by firmly pressing your tongue to the roof of your mouth and releasing the suctioned air. The result sounds much like the satisfying noise produced when uncorking your favorite bottle of wine. Pretty neat!
Green, rolling hills and coastlines for days — it’s easy to appreciate a language as beautiful as the landscape it comes from. Often viewed as the historical center of European culture, Italy is renowned for its heart-wrenching theatrical works. And the Italian language embodies this flair for the dramatic. From enthusiastic hand gestures, to the poetic expressions used in everyday conversation, Italian is full of passion.
Italian is also distinguished by the musical quality of its words, many of which have made their way into modern music vocabulary. The strong presence of long, drawn-out vowels and shorter, softer consonant clusters make words like buongiorno flow gracefully from the mouth. No wonder Italian has earned a reputation as the language of love!
Arabic is another language with a preceding reputation for beauty. The language itself is incredibly complex and carries with it a lengthy tradition of oral poetry. On top of that, the beautiful cursive script of written Arabic is an art form in its own right. It requires speakers to carefully consider which syllable or accent to emphasize in a word to avoid committing a lingual faux pas. For example, the word for “heart” (qalb) is one mispronounced letter away from an offensive insult.
This language also goes beyond descriptive, boasting more than 10 words for “love” — and hundreds more for “camel.” Many short words convey elaborate concepts needing longer translations in English. Take for instance one of the many words for camel, al-raqoob. This is what you call a camel that first waits before drinking from an already busy watering hole.
Soft, sensual and filled with words that effortlessly blur together — the French language is easy to admire. Many French people are fiercely proud of their language, and who can blame them and their sultry Rs. It certainly helps that pop culture often portrays French-speakers as effortlessly cool and impossibly beautiful. From je t’aime to mon petit chou, it’s no surprise French is adored around the world as the language for romance.
French is similarly notorious for making just about anything sound pretty — even disgusting phrases like pompe à chiasse (to be fair, “diarrhea pump” is a truly fitting insult for someone who’s full of crap). The language itself sounds especially pleasing to the English ear thanks to the emphasis on vowels and softly-pronounced Ts that disappear into nothing. Et voilà ! Pretty much anything you say will sound perfect whispered over a glass of wine.
The Turkish language is truly a delight (yes, pun intended). It’s so enamored with expressions of love that there are at least two different words to express it. Aşk is the love you feel for your romantic partner, while sevgi is used for friends or family. Turkish people are also renowned for the way they refer to their partners. While the English call their lovers darlings and the French call them cabbages, Turkish people often use more passionate terms like “my breath,” “my eyes” or “my life.”
And if you thought German words were long, you are in for a treat. It turns out you can append Turkish words with endless strings of suffixes. The result: lengthy phrase-words that express wonderfully complex and nuanced concepts. Take muvaffakiyetsizleştiricileştiriveremeyebileceklerimizdenmişsinizcesine, for example. Though this doozy of a word isn’t really used in practice, it shows how a root word is artfully modified to express the meaning of an entire sentence. Bu güzel!