Science Questions

Is English the most efficient language?

Tue, 29th Sep 2015

Listen Now    Download as mp3 from the show Why don't spiders get stuck on their webs?


Les asked:

Is English the most efficient language?


Psychologist Ginny Smith took a stab at answering Les' question...

Happy wordsGinny - So, with the speed thing, that’s actually an illusion. If you ask someone who speaks another language, they’ll say that they think English people speak very quickly. That’s because our brains actually segment words as they're being said. If you look at a recording of someone speaking a sentence, you'll notice that there actually aren't that many gaps. Where there are gaps, they're not always between words, but we hear gaps. But that is just something that our brain is doing. So, when you're hearing a language that you're not familiar with, your brain isn’t putting those gaps in and it makes it sound like they're talking 19 to the dozen. Actually, they're not talking any faster than I am now. It’s just because you don’t understand them.

Chris - We do get quite a lot of emails. A lot of people in America write to me and say, “You guys speak really quick on your programme. You need to learn proper English.”

Kat - I really do. My mother is always like, “Slow down dear, you speak far too fast.”

Chris - It’s also proportional to coffee intake in my case certainly. The more coffee I've had, it can get quite fatiguing to listen to myself back again afterwards. Gosh! I have had rather a lot of coffee. In terms of whether or not the language is compressed though in terms of being linguistically efficient, what do we think about that because certainly, I know, compared with the German for example, a lot of management meetings in German companies, they are held in English because they have found actually in typical German efficiency terms, they can save a lot of time by not actually speaking in their own language. It’s the scientific language isn’t it – English – internationally.

Kat - I think that’s really fascinating. I mean, German words are these enormous composite words, certainly in a language like that where you have Forschungsgemeinschaft instead of ‘research’. 


Subscribe Free

Related Content


Make a comment

See the whole discussion | Make a comment

Not working please enable javascript
Powered by UKfast
Genetics Society