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Do you speak one of the fastest languages?

todayMarch 25, 2024 52 1 5

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It’s easy to get the impression that native speakers can churn out sentences far faster than your brain can process. Surely you don’t speak this rapidly in your mother tongue?

Here’s the facts – some languages may indeed be “faster” than others.

 

1. Japanese

Japanese is the fastest spoken language, rapidly producing 7.84 syllables per second. Japanese is often spoken at such a fast pace due to its unique syllabic structure and the compact nature of its words. For instance, the Japanese word for “thank you” is “arigatou,” which contains fewer syllables than the English equivalent.

2. Spanish

Spanish closely follows Japanese, with a rate of 7.82 syllables per second. Compared to English, Spanish tends to be faster in speech. For example, the Spanish word “amigo” (friend) has one less syllable than its English counterpart. Watch a post from Sam Gratton that explains a little bit about it.

3. French

French lags just a little far behind with a rate of 7.18 syllables per second. While it’s slightly slower than Spanish and Japanese, French can still be swift. For instance, the French word “restaurant” is the same in English but pronounced with fewer syllables.

4. Italian

Italian is relatively slower compared to Spanish and French, with a rate of 6.99 syllables per second. However, it’s still quicker than English in many cases. The Italian word “ciao” (hello/goodbye) is a concise example with fewer syllables than the English equivalents.

5. English

English falls into the category of slower languages, with a rate of 6.19 syllables per second. Compared to some of the languages mentioned, English tends to have more syllables in its words. For instance, the English word “television” has more syllables than the word “televisión” in Spanish.

6. German

Second to last is German, which has a speed of 5.97 syllables per second. German often has longer and more complex words compared to English. For example, “Krankenhaus” (hospital) in German contains more syllables than its English counterpart.

7. Mandarin

Mandarin takes the position as the slowest recorded language, with a rate as low as 5.18 syllables per second. Mandarin’s slower pace is partly due to its tonal nature and the use of characters rather than an alphabet, which makes each word more complex. An example would be “你好” (nǐ hǎo), meaning “hello,” which consists of fewer syllables than the English greeting.

 

You should take all these findings with a pinch of salt, however. Many disagree that solid data backs up the claim that there are significant tempo differences between different languages and dialects.

And we would also love to see how our own local languages fair against these on the list!

Written by: Yanika

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