Romantic Languages: Not Necessarily Romance Languages Posted by Malachi Rempen on Sep 8, 2014 in Language Learning
I made the above strip a while back and thought I could mine some easy chuckles from a common stereotype. But now that I’m older, wiser, and more proficient in all of the above languages, I’ve come change my tune. Not only that, I’m going to crusade on behalf of those languages which I believe have been wrongly maligned by simplistic labels and bad first impressions. Any language can be romantic—not just the so-called romance languages!
Of course, the “romance” in the term “romance language” doesn’t refer to how effective it is in attracting members of the opposite sex; rather, it just means it’s a language rooted in Latin, the language of the Romans (it’s embarrassing how recently it was that I found this out myself). Yet there’s this pervading opinion that French, Italian, and Spanish are the world’s prettiest-sounding languages—apart from my own unscientific questioning of friends and relatives, the Kings of Romance seem to dominate most of the top-10 lists I can find on the web as well. They’re cited as being “melodic,” “flowing,” “cheerful,” and “easy on the ears.”
At the bottom of most lists, grumbling and grouching, are usually German, Russian, and the other Slavic languages. (Strangely, Arabic, Chinese and Japanese tend to vacillate on people’s lists between ugliest and prettiest. Not sure what that’s about.) They’re cursed with being “guttural,” “harsh,” and “like someone is choking on potatoes.”
Now, apart from this being a completely subjective topic, I believe it’s unfair. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that most of this is just the influence of popular culture. Paris, Barcelona, Venice: these are routinely cited as our planet’s most romantic cities. Italian and Spanish men are well-known for being aggressive pursuers of love, while the women are widely regarded as fiery and passionate. Thanks in no small part to Pepé Le Pew, the French are stereotyped as smooch-heavy seducers. All this, in my opinion, leads to romance tongues’ reputation for romance.
In fact, while these languages certainly can be romantic, they can just as easily not. French talk radio (like talk radio anywhere) reminds me of someone trying to swallow marbles. The pitter-patter of Italian can quickly become a nagging, fiery rat-tat-tat. And Spanish has so many accents across the world that I’m sure each one occupies a space on someone else’s “ugly” list.
German and Russian, on the other hand, can be mightily sexy. This all depends on what game you’re playing, of course, but there’s something to be said for those commanding tones, don’t you think? And I’m sure if we could find Looney Tunes cartoons in Serbian, Pepé Le Pew would sound just the same.
Any beautiful person with a winning smile and a killer line can seduce you, it doesn’t matter which language they’re speaking. Confidence, assertiveness, charisma, and humor play a much bigger role in attracting the opposite sex than whether your tones are nasal or guttural.
Likewise, if a large, nasty person with a bad attitude and a bone to pick is verbally assaulting you in a so-called “romance” language, you’re not going to place it very high on your list.
Okay, fine, let’s hear it: what do you think are the most and least beautiful languages around? But more interesting, perhaps – have you been seduced by German? Have you been turned off by Italian? Where have you seen the stereotypes inverted?