When Babbel first visited the topic of sexy accents, we surveyed over 15,000 people in order to arrive at a statistically significant ranking of the sexiest accents in the world. However, that survey population came with a big asterisk on the side. Largely due to where Babbel’s expertise and presence is concentrated, we surveyed participants in Brazil, Spain, Italy, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, and Australia. In other words, the “world” in this case is perhaps best described as the West.
And it perhaps comes as no surprise that people in Western countries tend to vote for Western languages, which is a trope you’ll see repeated pretty much anytime a Western publication comes out with yet another ranking of sexy accents. Is it a fact of nature that French and Italian are two of the sexiest accents in the world, or is it more a question of who we’re asking, what they’re most familiar with, and the cultural biases they’ve picked up along the way?
In general, linguists tend to agree with the latter assumption. The more familiar we are with certain sounds, the more likely we are to like them. Our brains are hardwired pretty much from birth to recognize and prioritize sounds we associate with “home” and to tune out foreign sounds, or at least find them less alluring. In a more globalized world, we can probably extend the concept of “home” beyond the language(s) we happened to grow up speaking. It’s not uncommon for people growing up in London, for example, to have had lots of exposure to French, German, or Spanish culture growing up.
This brings us to another point. The legacy of colonialism has not only spread European languages to every corner of the globe — there are, in fact, a whopping five countries in the world that were never colonized by Europe or subject to its sphere of influence — but it has also cemented a lasting cultural hegemony, which is part of the reason why British accents are often considered sexy by people in non-Western countries too.
Linguist Vineeta Chand of the University of Essex says our evaluation of sexy languages is hardly limited to the sounds themselves, but are often an extension of how we view the people who speak them. Involved in those assumptions are not only lingering colonial attitudes, but also the kinds of cultural representation they’ve been afforded. Hence why German accents are often characterized as angry, Russian accents are deemed a bit dangerous, and French accents are considered sensual. And of course, we’re inclined to have more positive associations with languages we associate with economic power and cultural prestige.
A Very Non-Scientific Methodology
All of that was just a long-winded way of saying that it’s getting a bit dull and predictable to keep recycling the same handful of five or six accents in every “sexy accents” listicle, even though people love “sexy accents” listicles, and we believe in giving the people what they want.
To come up with this list, we compiled data from multiple existing surveys of the sexiest accents in the world and filtered out those belonging to non-Western countries, giving special weight to those that have ranked consistently in two or more surveys. These include a 2019 Big 7 Travel poll, a 2017 Ranker poll, a 2014 CNN poll, and a 2018 Time Out poll.
It’s also worth noting that the boundaries of what’s considered “Western” and “non-Western” are not clearly defined nor universally agreed upon. For instance, “Western” is not necessarily synonymous with “European,” given that Eastern Europe is often excluded from the definition. Additionally, Latin America can be considered Western or non-Western depending on who you ask and which criteria they employ. For the purposes of this article, we’ve nixed accents that are localized to North America, Western Europe, Australia, and New Zealand.
The Sexiest Accents In The World*
*Well, you know what we mean by “world” at this point.
- South African
- Brazilian Portuguese
- Central Latin American Spanish
- South American Spanish