Spanish Is the Happiest Language

Scientists' analysis of websites suggests as much
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 14, 2015 7:51 AM CST
Spanish Is the Happiest Language
Kasandra Herrera, 6, reads a book in Spanish in Bianca Alvarez's dual language first-grade classroom at Northwest Elementary School in Dodge City, Kan.   (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)

If you're in a foul mood, it might be time to learn Spanish. Languages, and the people who use them, tend to favor using positive words over negatives, researchers find, and they've learned that that's particularly true in Spanish. Experts at the University of Vermont and the MITRE Corporation went through volumes of text from all kinds of sources: books, the news, music lyrics, movie subtitles, and more, including some 100 billion words used on Twitter, UVM reports. Investigating 10 languages, they picked out the 10,000 most common words, then had native speakers rank these words on a nine-point happiness scale; "laughter," for instance, was rated 8.5, while "greed" came in at 3.06.

All 24 types of sources reviewed resulted in scores above the neutral 5, meaning they leaned "happy." In other words, "people use more positive words than negative ones," a researcher says. As far as individual languages go, here are the top five happiest ones, via Discovery:

  1. Spanish
  2. Portuguese
  3. English
  4. German
  5. French
Chinese came in last of the 10 languages in the study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Positive-language data has also resulted in an actual happiness meter, known as the hedonometer, UVM notes. It follows Twitter posts in English to determine when the happiest words are being used. Christmas, it shows, is a very happy day, while celebrity deaths correlate with low points. Meanwhile, Boulder, Colorado, is apparently the happiest city (at least among Twitter users), while Racine, Wisconsin, appears to be the most miserable. (If you need a lift, try changing the way you walk.)

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