'The French Tongue Isn't Only Famous for Kissing'

For the "glamorous life of a journalist" chronicles, an item from the morning's mail bag, verbatim:

Hi James,

Here's a fun talker for you right in time for Valentine's Day. Want to make the opposite sex swoon? Forget good looks or a charming personality. A new international survey reveals if you want to light libidos on fire, learn to "parle francai"s or "habla espanol" - speak another language!

The international survey of more than 5,000 men and women (1300 Americans) reveals if you speak a different language:
    •    79% find you more attractive
    •    77% rate you as more intelligent

Also, it turns out the French tongue isn't only famous for kissing.

The survey reveals:
    •    French is the #1 Sexiest Language, (chosen by 41%)
    •    #2 Italian (chosen by 16%)
    •    #3 Spanish (chosen by 15%)

Chill dudes. We Americans still have some swag. English ranked #4th sexiest language (chosen by 10%).  And so much for Gangnam style. The Korean language came in dead last - the least sexy language....

When people polled were asked the top pick-up line they'd like to hear or say in another language the top choices are:

#1 "Where have you been all my life?" or in French "Où as-tu été toute ma vie?"
#2 "Can I get you a drink?" or in Italian "Ti posso offrire da bere?"
#3 "I lost my phone number. Can I have yours?"  Or in Spanish "¿Perdí mi número de teléfono, me podrías dar el tuyo?"

The company conducting the survey asks to be credited with its results, and you can find them easily if you search. As well as capsule bios of some of your prospective teachers:


My wife speaks more languages than anyone else I know, so according to this survey that must be why I've always found her not only "more attractive" but also "more intelligent." In retrospect it's a good thing I said to her on our first date, "Où as-tu été toute ma vie?"

1) Why do I quote these things? A basic rule of life for reporters is that you should spend your time talking with and learning about people who are not sending you press releases, rather than those who are. But when I see each day's crop of these entreaties, I marvel anew at the infinity of startup activity that is the modern economy. And having written pitch letters myself over the years, I feel a kind of grizzled-veteran solidarity with the people trying so hard to get someone else's attention.

Plus, "the exuberant face and biceps" of German, among many other touches....  You have to admire this kind of effort.

2) Why do I blank out the teachers' names, and that of the company, when you can easily find them for yourself? It seems a little unfair to the teachers, including the "modern day Queen of the Nile" and the "gem of the Orient," to expose them in a way they weren't expecting, and in reality most people won't bother to track them down. But if you're curious enough, you can find out more. Maybe even learn the Language of Love.
UPDATE About that "exuberant face and biceps," a reader in the US writes:
James, we German speakers all figure out that German is a favorite foreign language for gay men here.
I don't know why it works out that way, but I've noticed that for many years.
Maybe a reporter could figure it out?
Maybe so. In the meantime, the capsule bio of the German teacher is worth re-reading in that light. 

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.


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