It’s a question as old as the word ‘lust.’ What is the world’s most titillating tongue? In all the world, what is the most seductive, the sultriest, the sexiest language? The question aroused our curiosity, so in May of 2017, we asked you.
Day Translations conducted our own informal and not especially scientific social media survey on the world’s sexiest language.
The landslide winner of libidinous languages was French, which ravished a full 50 percent of voters’ affection. Italian came in as the next sexiest language, with 29 percent of votes, followed by English with 15 percent, and German came up dry with only 6 percent.
But we didn’t stop there.
Thanks to Twitter’s tight leash on the number of polling options you can keep up at once, our sexiest language data had the glaring omission of Spanish, that fiery fiesta of delectable dialects.
So, not to be satisfied with one quick go, we had a second romp at the roster--this time with Spanish involved. And it’s a good thing we did, because for round two, voters changed positions. Spanish came out on top as the world’s sexiest language. It slurped up 48 percent of the votes, compared to French’s more modest 32 percent.
This data is by no means conclusive, but it does give us a glimpse into the fickle and shapeshifting psyche of popular opinion. The sexiest language, according to you, is sometimes Spanish, sometimes French.
And don’t worry, Germans! While not popular in our polls, one Atlantic reader noted that the German language has a certain unaccountable popularity among gay American men. There’s a place for every taste when the sexiest language is on the table.
So Who’s the Sexiest Language Winner?
To break the Spanish/French sexiest language tie, Hotels.com gives us a window into the affair. They whipped up their own survey of over 8,000 eager little language lovers, only to find that--surprise, surprise!--French comes in as the number one sexiest language after all. Italian peaked right behind, and British English was a sporting third.
So why does French dominate? What gives it the upper hand? What makes it the sexiest language? Maybe it’s that French can can tickle the ear, nibble the senses, and inspire innuendo better than any other on the planet.
But let’s see what the experts have to say about our international escapades with the world’s sexiest language.
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It’s France’s Sexy Culture
“There’s nothing in the accent itself that has anything to do with it being considered sexy,” opines Dr. Nigel Armstrong, lecturer in French and sociolinguistics at the University of Leeds.
“People, especially the British, have this stereotypical view of sexy French women in Paris, the haute couture, the French cuisine and we consider them stylish people, and all this adds to their sex appeal, which is basically what makes their accent seem sexy.
"Any accent is just a series of sounds. The explanation of why we find French sexy and charming is cultural and social.”
What a buzzkill! It’s true the thought of France can conjure images of champagne and lace, but please, Dr. Armstrong, must we be so clinical about it? Surely, there must be more to what makes French the sexiest language. Or are we really just two dimensional lemmings for cultural stereotypes?
It does indeed go deeper than this. Marilyn Yalom, author of How the French Invented Love, describes what she calls an “intensity of love in the French experience.”
Yalom says in French culture “There is a belief that love has its own justification, that it should be experienced as passionately as possible. The French have a wonderful expression, amour passion, which is the ultimate. If you've lived in France long enough, one day someone will tell you about their amour passion, the passionate love of their live, or they will ask you if you've ever had an amour passion.”
“For a French person,” she adds, “lack of desire in someone is really seen as a defect.”
So French culture and passion are deeply intertwined. But if culture were the long and short of things, what about those who have alternative views of French culture? If someone had a lackluster impression of France, would the language cease to stimulate? We must go deeper still.
Of Phonemes and Pheromones
Some hold firmly that the sex appeal of French is inherent. That it is, in fact, the sounds of the French tongue that make it the sexiest language. That the language itself is eros to the ears.
Professor emerita at Boston University and coauthor of Psycholinguistics Jean Berko Gleason says "There are a couple of qualities that are generally agreed upon that are attractive in voices. One is a lack of nasality. Nasality means that when you're speaking, you're using your nasal cavity as a resonator.
"Another is fundamental frequency — how high or how low your voice is. In general, women find men with lower voices more attractive [assuming heterosexuality]. A male whose voice is relatively low sounds virile.”
He adds, “There are famous women with relatively low voices, too — husky voices — that people find sexy."
Husky, it turns out, is a key component of the sexiest language.
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Husky and Hoarse? Yes, Please!
For a man’s voice, scientists at the University College of London found out that the perfect pitch is a low, breathy or husky voice. To the listener, this indicates a large body stature and lack of aggression. Both are biologically desirable qualities that women look for.
A study by Albright College in Pennsylvania found that, when trying to sound sexier, women will also lower the pitch of their voice and increase their hoarseness.
“Ironically,” says associate professor of psychology Susan Hughes, Ph.D., “men prefer higher-pitch females, but a woman will signal her interest in a man by intentionally dropping her voice.”
The study found that women can easily sound sexier when they want to, but men’s attempts generally don’t come out sounding any sexier to women.
All told, the consensus seems to be that no matter your sex or gender, a breathy voice, a husky voice, a hoarse voice--that’s a hot voice.
Renee Grant-Williams, a voice coach and the author of Voice Power: Using Your Voice to Captivate, Persuade, and Command Attention suggests "a low, husky voice is what you wake up with in the morning, and it suggests the bedroom, sexual exertion, and sexual desire. It's true of men and women. A generally attractive voice is a voice that is considered to be rich, deep, and comforting."
While a husky voice mimics the morning after sound of rumpled bedsheets, a breathy voice connects to how we sound during and after a rousing bout of exercise. So a husky, breathy voice immediately conjures up images of stimulating bedroom activity.
And here’s where the French tongue comes back into play.
Nothing Says ‘Sexiest Language’ Like Alveolar Fricatives and Uvular Trill
As the sexiest language, French has sounds that mimic a breathy, husky voice. The ‘zh’ sound in bonjour, which is an alveolar fricative, and the ‘ch’ in chatouiller both require a whisper of breath across the lips.
And the uvular trill of the ‘r’ sound in maîtresse perfectly captures the husky, sexy hoarseness we’ve all come to love. In fact, it’s one of the French language’s most definitive sounds.
Here’s another taste of vintage French. To make the ‘eu’ sound in culminer, make the English sound eee, and then round your lips. If you happen to be near a mirror, you might notice the face you’re making. It looks like un petit bisou, a little kiss.
Bringing these qualities together, we have a language that’s built upon the subtle interplay of whispers, murmurs, husky growls, guttural moans and delicate pursed lips. It’s like kissing Chanel off a collarbone. French is the perfect phonetic storm to inspire your lust and fancy. And that, more than any cultural connotations, is what makes French the world’s sexiest language.
Choose Your Own Sexiest Language
Of course, there can be no one definitive answer for what is the sexiest language on Earth. The question is far too subjective.
Results are complicated when we begin to consider that most of these polls are done in the English-speaking world. The primary candidates for world’s sexiest language are usually European, perhaps because the English-speaking world is primarily of European descent.
So choose for yourself what you find to be the sexiest language, and don’t forget how many languages there are in the world!
To remove cultural bias from the research and get a more scientific view of what is the world’s sexiest language--and why--will take more rigorous research. Until someone conducts such research, we’ll be waiting with baited breath, and practicing our uvular trills.
Because whether it’s old cultural stereotypes, or the way certain phonemes trigger our animal mind, French seems to have a magic touch. It’s amazing what a whispered mon dieu can do.
What do you think the sexiest language is? Let us know in the comments below!