Accentuate the Positive: the World’s Favorite Accents

Text-to-speech (TTS) app Metavoicer can read documents and websites in 14 different accents for English alone, ranging from Tanzanian to Hong Kong. So what’s your favorite accent?
On the face of it, it’s a dumb question. Accents are just different ways of pronouncing a language, none “better” or “worse” than any other. Any linguist will tell you that communication is what really matters.
However, as social animals, we look for clues in the way others speak. Where are they from? Are they like us, or different? Friendly or hostile? Interesting or dull?
As a result, surveys of favorite accents are a mainstay of newspapers and the internet. We looked at some of the recent studies, to see whether there’s anything in the idea, or whether it just depends on who you ask.
The largest survey was carried out in 2019, and spoke to 7,500 respondents in the UK, USA, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Poland, and Canada. It found that the British accent was most popular, ranking highest everywhere except Poland, which rated the American accent higher.
American accents were found to be “friendly”, “straightforward” and “assertive”. The British accent was considered to be “sophisticated,” “stylish” and “professional.” Americans and Canadians also described it as “sexy”, though perhaps unsurprisingly Brits themselves found a French accent more alluring.
However, if you simply ask which accent people round the world people find sexy, you get a range of different answers. Time Out in 2020 agreed that the British accent was most appealing, with many Asian respondents perhaps indulging in Harry Potter fantasies. French was second and Italian third.
In 2019 though a study for a travel company found that New Zealanders were considered sexiest. This is something of an anomaly, as the Kiwi accent rarely ranks highly on any other surveys. The Irish accent, on the other hand, often comes at or near the top, especially when women are asked.
There’s a good evolutionary reason why we find different