Why does it seem like some languages are spoken faster than others? The answer is that speed depends on the average amount of information packed in a single syllable. It takes people about the same amount of time to read a simple story out loud whether it is translated into English, French, German, Japanese or Mandarin. But the number of syllables that will have been spoken in that amount of time varies; those languages that need more syllables to convey the same story sound faster.