South African accent drops to 12th friendliest in the world

The South African accent featured at number 2 back in 2019. Picture: Pixels Christina Morillo.

The South African accent featured at number 2 back in 2019. Picture: Pixels Christina Morillo.

Published Dec 19, 2023


The South African accent has been placed 12th in a study that delved into who has the friendliest accent in the world.

The study was conducted by with 5 000 participants, 2 406 of whom were women, 2 500 were men and 94 identified as “other”.

The survey came amid reports that six in 10 people (62%) believed that others had made subconscious judgements about them based on their accent or how they speak, with accent bias dictating job prospects, level of attractiveness, intelligence and even friendliness.

The study showed that South Africa may not be considered friendly, with just one in every 100 (1.6%) survey participants identifying the South African accent as the most friendly-sounding.

This ranks them 12th overall, a large decrease in rankings since 2019 when the South African accent was considered the second most attractive accent worldwide.

Meanwhile, topping the list is the American accent, which has the highest odds of being considered friendly, with one in five (19.5%) deeming it to be the friendliest.

This is followed by the British accent, Australian, Canadian, German, French, Scottish, Italian, Austrian, Spanish, Irish, Indian, and Jamaican, while Dutch ties with South Africa at 12th.

Dr Christopher Strelluf, an associate professor of linguistics at the University of Warwick and an authority on language, shed light on how people perceive and stereotype accents.

He said our perceptions of folks who speak different languages are typically reflected in our attitudes toward those languages.

“For instance, Americans would probably have different evaluations of the friendliness of English they associate with the big cities of the north eastern seaboard compared with the rural areas of the south eastern US.

“Many people in the UK would feel that accents of the English North are much friendlier than those of the English South,” explained Strelluf.

He said the meanings of Englishes globally are also changing rapidly across a range of dimensions.

“For instance, while British Englishes have historically provided an international model for ‘correct’ English, people who live in countries where English is being learnt for access to the global marketplace increasingly prefer American Englishes as their standard.

“As such, the attitudes toward English in this survey reveal the fundamental ways we continue to navigate our social relationships through language and through our ideas about language.”