Michelle Avidon, a 28-year-old nutrition advisor who lives in New York, is a native Russian speaker and prefers to date people who speak multiple languages. “It’s not a turnoff if you don’t,” she said, “but I’m bilingual and I do find it more attractive if the other person is as well.”
She doesn’t care what other language her dates speak, as long as they speak one. “It doesn’t have to be my languages that they are bilingual in,” she added, “but it’s definitely something that would bring us closer, and learning another language with your partner is fun.”
Most people appear to agree. If you want to pick up a date, perhaps try asking them out in another language. The vast majority of Americans — 72% — find people who speak multiple languages more attractive than those who speak just one, according to a study from dating app Happn and language-learning app Duolingo that surveyed more than 700 people.
Lovelorn language lovers may be hard pressed to find partners, however: Only 20% of Americans learn a language other than English in school, according to a study released Monday by the Pew Research Center, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank. In comparison, a median of 92% of students in the European Union speak more than one language.
Speaking another language can also be a class indicator, the latest survey showed, with 76% of Americans finding those who speak another language more “worldly.” Meredith Golden, a New York-based dating coach, agrees. In her experience, people find bilingual mates to be more attractive than monolingual partners because they perceive them to be more intelligent.
“High intellect is very attractive,” she said. “Speaking more than one language fluently suggests that someone is very bright or well educated. All the single women I work with list intelligence as a desired trait in a potential mate.
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The survey from Duolingo and Happn found Americans are adventurous in general when it comes to dating: 76% say they would be open to having a summer affair abroad and 72% said they would even relocate overseas for love. Dating someone from another country has its own challenges, including cultural differences and language barriers, but singletons are apparently willing to overlook them.
In fact, the study found people don’t even care if their partner speaks the same language as they do at all: 64% of Americans would date someone who does not speak their language at all. This was especially true for men, with 71% saying they would date someone who doesn’t speak English.
This may be especially true on casual swiping apps where singletons are looking for sizzling encounters rather than scintillating conversation. “Generally, the people using these apps are not looking for the love of their lives, they are looking for a fun date or a hook-up,” said Eric Resnick, the online dating coach behind ProfileHelper.com.
“A stranger who speaks a different language is exciting and exotic, and something that a lot of people are willing to overlook if the other person is hot,” he added.
Americans love an accent and, more so, love to hear a foreign language spoken by their date. Louise Palmberg, a 23-year-old photographer in New York, said she is often asked to say phrases in her native language Swedish, to the point that it sometimes feels it’s being fetishized.
Palmberg said her language is brought up on “98% of dates” she has experienced. “People often get disappointed when it turns out I don’t have an accent. Sometimes it makes me feel really insecure,” she said. “I don’t mind it being brought up, but sometimes it can get frustrating when people linger on it.”
(This story was updated on Aug. 8, 2018.)
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