‘Je t’aime’ or ‘Ich Liebe Dich’ – which is the nicer of the two? There are thousands of different perceptions surrounding languages, and debates that arise when narrowing down the qualities that determine a language as attractive. It is generally understood that the romance languages (e.g. French, Spanish, Italian) would rank highest. However, no direct research about the attractiveness of a language has been carried out, leaving us to simply ponder the reasons why.
An individual or group’s outlook on a country can determine their outlook on the language. For example, if we retain a positive view on a community, it can result in a positive perception of the language spoken. In addition to this, if the country has a large population, the language is then seen as more appealing to learn as people are able to communicate with a wider audience, as well as experience its culture. Some, on the other hand, believe that the actual sounds of the language make it attractive; the way it rolls off the tongue and the phonetics of the words in romance languages, especially French. This perception, however, is derived directly from those countries/regions and their history. Furthermore, Israeli author Guy Deutscher wrote a book about the perceptions of languages all over the world: ‘Through the Language Glass: Why the world looks different in other languages’, highlighting the idea that the rarer the words and sounds of a language are, the less appealing they are to other nationalities, being too peculiar and divergent from one’s native tongue. In my opinion, if something is contrasting and odd then it immediately becomes more appealing, as I find it captivating to broaden my knowledge and concept of the world, as well as helping me shape a diverse outlook on the rest of the world.
Unfortunately, the history of the country and its relation to others are, still today, a restriction to the progression of acquiring further languages, alongside studying the fascinating cultural and social aspects. For example, we are always reminded of Germany’s tragic and horrifying political past, causing many aspiring linguists to reject any interest in the language.
On the contrary, one could argue that the idea of a language sounding melodic, poetic, musical and elegant is non-existent, and is simply a judgement from the past that has travelled and aged. Nevertheless, it is widely acknowledged that certain languages are perceived as unattractive due to their harsh phonetics and unusual (yet sometimes funny) accents, such as Chinese and (unfortunately) German.
Nonetheless, this is 2014 and in our modern world occupied with numerous modern languages, our perceptions are always changing. Although some people’s concept of Germany may scream negativity, Germans are well organised people with a strong work ethic, maintaining a level-headed and stern manner. More importantly, their economy is now the largest and most successful in Europe and its central location makes Germany the world’s top location for trade fairs. So why wouldn’t you want to learn German?