Fun languages

Many years ago while travelling in China, I heard Norwegian being spoken for the first time when I met some Norwegians in Guangzhou. To me their language sounded sort of familiar and quite funny – a bit like German being spoken by very drunk people. Danish and Swedish sound similar to me and I think it’s the intonation that makes them sound like fun languages and puts a smile on my face. I also quite like the sounds of Dutch, which again sounds to me like a funny kind of German.

The only Germanic languages I currently know are English and German. I plan to learn one or two others, Norwegian and maybe Dutch, in the not too distant future.

A friend recently starting learning Norwegian and he’s really enjoying it. He finds it a quirky and fun language and says that he’s never before studied a language that makes him laugh out loud so frequently.

Which languages put a smile on your face?

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This entry was posted in Language, Language learning.

21 Responses to Fun languages

  1. Josh says:

    I feel the exact same way about Germanic languages- even English. They all sound so happy. Whimsically long words and sing-songy intonations make Scandinavian languages some of my absolute favourites. I even like the way they look with all the å’s and/ or æ’s and/ or þ’s and/ or ð’s… They almost even sound forgivably silly to me- no offense to anyone. When we first moved to the states from Canada, I had a Norwegian babysitter that kept me all the time- and I absorbed so much language from her and it gave me access to Danish and Swedish which I started to learn on my own at a later state. Then I took German for about 6 years and from then on I kind of muddled all the languages together. I kind of adopted this hybrid Germanic language that a lot of my scandinavian speaking friends seem to understand-

    Ig scriver det ecke så oft, men hvan tincker ig over det ig ser þisse sprog þat ig scriver nå.

  2. Jared says:

    Northern Germanic languages (like those spoken in Scandinavia) make me laugh. The reason is that I listen to a radio show called The Prairie Home Companion in which they frequently poke gentle fun at Norwegians and Swedes (this has nothing to do with racism or prejudice; the show is based in Minnesota, where there is a large Scandinavian population, and if you can’t find humor in yourself or your family, then your life must be very, very bleak). In poking said fun, they have a sound-effects man who imitates the sound of the languages very well. He’s just babbling, but sounds more like Norwegian than Norwegian does! So Norwegian, Swedish, and Danish make me laugh because I can’t help thinking of that phonic caricature when I hear them.

  3. Polly says:

    “I think it’s the intonation that makes them sound like fun languages and puts a smile on my face.” – I felt exactly the same way the first time I heard Finnish. I actaully started to laugh. It’s the only language I would describe as “cute.” But, the 14-16 noun cases are definitely NOT cute. I do want to learn more of the language in the future, though.

    One thing that’s probably more in line with the last topic:

    The population of speakers of a language does have a little influence on whether I pursue a language, even if I never intend to travel to talk to them. There are very few Finns and most of them, it seems, speak English just fine. If there were only 5 million Russians in the world, I might not have bothered with Russian, either. Armenian (global pop. = 8million) is actually USEFUL to me, so it’s not just for fun – but it is a fun language. :)

  4. Josh says:

    If anyone has ever seen the original Pippi Longstocking (Pippi Långstrump), you’ll hear exactly why Scandinavian languages sound so amusing. Swedish almost sounds like English run backwards.

  5. About the humor factor of some languages…I wonder if it’s the fact that languages similar to ours have a tendency at times to sound like “weird English”? I’ve heard the Russians think similarly of Polish, that it has a tendency to sound to them like “weird Russian” and therefore is extremely funny. What about Italians? Do they think Spanish sounds funny? Do the Spanish think Portuguese sounds funny? Do Vietnamese think Chinese is funny? And so on… :-)

  6. As for languages that seem to have a fun factor to them, Icelandic definitely sticks out to me. But here’s another one that hasn’t been mentioned. I haven’t tried it yet, but for some reason Hindi seems to have a “smile factor” with it…whenever I hear it, or when I hear a person whose first language is Hindi speaking English, it has such a lilting, musical sound to it that I have to think it’s fun. :-)

  7. Mike says:

    I can’t help but smile whenever I hear Mandarin or Japanese. I like the sing-song quality that the tones add to those languages.

    The same is true of some written languages for me. Whenever I see text written in Hebrew, Korean, or Devanagari, I just feel happy for some reason. :)

  8. Alain Vaillancourt says:

    Swedish did make me smile a lot, but only on the radio when I was driving around Sweden during a few summer vacations there. It was not the same when I saw the persons speaking, right there next to me. A few years after my trips I took some private lessons in Swedish, and again, seeing it spoken by persons in front of me, I did not find it “tickling” me. The supposedly closely-related languages like Norwegian and Danish did not have the “tickle” effect on me at all during similar summer vacations in those countries on the radio or in person Haven’t heard Icelandic yet, just studied Old Norse without hearing native speakers.

    At any rate, any language presented in a funny matter can have that “tickle” effect on me. My mother tongue is French and there’s no mystery in its many accents for me yet I find the old Warner Brothers Loony Tunes “Pepe Le Pew” cartoons hilarious, most specially so when one of the characters frantically dashes off a barrage of fake French words mixed with English, in a broken Parisian accent: “Gendarme, gendarme, le skunk, le pew, avec! Avec!”

  9. Ben L. says:

    While familiarity may at times breed contempt between people, I agree with the posters who pointed out the smile factor in relatively similar languages, e.g. German and Netherlands. I think it’s the recognition of words heavily accented (from the non-speaker’s vantage) and the accompanying realization that speakers of the related language really do “sound funny”, to put it rather inellegantly.

    Talking to Spanish speakers, I’ve found they tend to recognize much of Italian. I’ve never heard one say they thought it sounded like “funny” Spanish, although I think I may have detected a hint of a smile hen I asked. From what I gather, Portuguese seemed less comprehensible to Spanish speakers, but this is hardly more than pure conjecture.

  10. Although Spanish is my second language, and not my native tongue, I have a rather odd conundrum about which is easier to understand…in writing Portuguese is often the easier of the two, but in speaking, I find I pick up on Italian much faster.

  11. Kelly says:

    I certainly wouldn’t say that the Germanic languages put a smile on my face. I’m not too fond of German and find learning Dutch to be a right challenge and bore. But each to their own! :)

    I think Georgian is one of the languages that makes me smile lately. It has a somewhat quirky feel to it and is a language you’re not going to hear very often on a daily basis. Japanese is another particular favourite of mine as is Romanian, the somewhat prodigal son of the Romance family. I can’t help bu grin inanely every time I hear O-Zone’s ‘Dragostea din tei’. :D

  12. Janis says:

    The only thing I remember hearing from a friend of mine that made me think regards this was related to how this perception shifts depending on your native languge. American English speakers tend to like the standard Hindi accent that you hear all over the place in California. To me (and my friend agrees, as does everyone elseI know), it’s sing-song and lilting and pretty.

    But she recalls being in a meeting with people from India and Japan and the US, and finding that the Japanese found the Indian fellow’s accent actually harsh sounding and guttural, whereas she found it light and as pretty as ever.

    Just an interesting observation …

    The languages that tend to make me smile the most are African languages, with the musicality and the clicks. They are gorgeous, and it’s just a delight that somewhere on Earth, people have found such an absolutely bubbly and beautiful way of expressing themselves.

    As far as languages I know go, Welsh always makes me smile, but my reaction to Welsh has almost been one of grasping madly at it to gorge myself on it, so it’s got a slightly different feel to it, almost a compulsion as opposed to the light, diverting feel I get from some African languages.

  13. Evans Knight says:

    my girlfriends roommate is swedish, and she likes to just break into song and speaks swedish whenever she can, even though no one understands her. i think svenska is pretty humorous.

    the funniest linguistic phenomenon i can think of is when native farsi speakers, especially older ones, try to speak english. i don’t know why, but the v/w transposition and the vowel use just makes me laugh every time i hear it…and that has gotten me a few good lumps.

  14. Polly says:

    I heard someone on a gameshow speaking Zulu a few weeks back and it sounded wonderful, and it did bring a smile to my face. It’s a really great sounding language. I’ve wanted to learn it for a long time but due to limited resources (mental and other), it remains on the back burner.

    I find Russian to be a very “soft” language. But, everyone else compares it to German in harshness. I’m not sure why it doesn’t strike me that way.

  15. Ramses says:

    Danish puts a smile on my face, but Norwegian and Danish are very similair. As I native-speaking Dutchman I find it hard to believe that Dutch is a funny sounding language, to me it comes as a ‘hard’ language (hard g’s, hard r’s, etc. etc.).

  16. Benjamin says:

    Hm, for a German Dutch really sounds (and reads) quite funny. It’s just that you recognize so many words from either German or English but they’re just not the same: There’s always a vowel or an ending that differs from German and makes it funny.
    The same works for Swedish (as far as I can tell).

    I wonder if that also works the other way round. Does German sound funny to Dutch or Swedish people?

  17. Ramses says:

    No, German doesn’t sound funny to a lot of Dutch people, including me. Most only think it’s a bit harder :-).

  18. Bethieee says:

    The comment that some Russians think Polish sounds like funny Russian is one that I can secondy by personal experience. I studied Russian in college. When one of my friends graduated Lec Walensa spoke at the graduation ceremony and I could predict what the interpreter was going to say for much of it. I can’t claim comprehension as my Russian was never all that good, I get stuck on word by word translation and lose track of the gist (can’t see the forest for the trees).
    When I mentioned this to a Lithuania friend earlier this year, I was told not to mention it in mixed company as she expected that neither Russians nor Poles would likely look favorably on the comparison.

  19. parkbench says:

    Swahili! The use of vowels is exquisite.

  20. Sabrina says:

    A language that puts a smile on my face is definitely Russian! I absolutely love the intonations and the beautiful use of vowels–even the grammar fascinates me! I found it a very easy language to learn once i got passed the alphabet. I also think it sounds gentle and soft, like rolling hills.

    Another I like is Zulu. The clicks were especially hard to master, q and xh (an aspirated click!) in particular. Q sounds like a cork being drawn from a bottle! when I first started, it didn’t sound like it could possibly come from a human mouth.

  21. NekoFoo says:

    i’m fond of japanese, norwegian, arabic (egyptian sounds pimp) and.. i like farsi too. but i don’t really know which ones i like most D’= because its hard to find a site that has little examples or demos of languages. does anyone know of one?