Three guys are debating about which of their languages is the most pleasing to the ear. The Spaniard says,

"Consider the word for 'butterfly'. In Spanish, this is Mariposa, a beautiful sounding word."

The French guy says, "True, but Papillon is even more beautiful".

"What's wrong with Schmetterlink?", says the German."


I've always thought that was a subjective matter (and personally, I find mariposa more pleasing to the ear than papillon), but I've always been intrigued by the seemingly general acceptation that "German sounds awful!".

Once, in the train, there were two young women a few seats away, chatting with a soft and musical accent, and it took me a few seconds to realize they were using German. I understood enough of their conversation to learn both originated from Ulm. Maybe it was just a regional accent issue, anyway it was very pleasurable to just listen to them, while I was reading the news.

So my question of the day is: what makes you like or dislike a particular spoken language, or group of languages?

As for me, I think I have a taste for clearly distinguishable short vowels, vowel variety, and clear-but-not-emphasized consonants, with a balanced mix and alternance of stop, liquid and fricative ones. I'm not too high on semivowels or approximants when they come in droves. And I like a legato-staccato articulation.

Tags: butterfly, language, pronunciation, sound, subjectivity

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Replies to This Discussion

One obvious reason that German sounds bad to many in the west is, I think, that we in the west thought of Germans as our evil enemies for much of the last century

I was about to mention it. However I remember that Jacques Offenbach, the German-born composer who emigrated to France in the early 1830's (long before these countries became sworn enemies), always strongly despised the German language and his own accent, which he never could get rid of.

I like to hear the English language.

Strangely, I don't like it so much as many other languages, although I really love written English. But I'm in the minority in my own country. Many Frenchmen seem to think that English is naturally suited to song lyrics, more than any other language, and much more than French. Not many of them realize it's due, essentially, to the prevalence of American pop culture in the media. "No, it's only because it sounds so cool!". Maybe next century they'll switch to Chinese ;-)
All languages are beautiful in their own way but my favorite to listen to is Spanish as it's spoken in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Very elegant. Unique features are the "ll" and "y" pronounced like the French "j" and an Italian-like rhythm and inflection. I believe it's referred to as Rioplatense Spanish.
A lot of my American friends always complain when I travel about my soft Canadian palette when it comes to pronunciations, the whole "-oot" sound, and my "women", comes out as "womyn" with a y sound as in "yes".

If you look up the concept of Canadian Raising, is pretty indicative of how I sound when I speak. Also since I moved out east, "eh" has become a much bigger part of my vocabulary.
By the way, French people are often amused by the Québécois accent, which sounds heavily 'peasant' to them. Strangely, they don't seem to notice that many English Canadians or Americans have a very similar accent. Likewise, French people wouldn't even think about mocking a Québécois because of his accent, when he uses English.

It makes me think that our relation to the language we hear affects our perception of the person we listen to in a very subconscious way.
French sounds nasal, which I don't like, and I have a special loathing for the word 'genre'.

I agree on both counts.
Amongst English dialects Canadian seems goofy but reserved and pleasant.

Canadian newscasters are apparently heavily prized in the US news markets, the industry has a hard time hanging on to them. Apparently a lot of it is due to the fact, that the Canadian tone is considered very neutral and easy to understand, when tamed of the cultural oddities.

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