“There’s no place like home.”
“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
“Winter is coming.”
Whether you mean for them to or not, chances are your favorite quotes work their way into your daily life.
But quotes don’t need to be used exclusively for adding color to your daily speech. They can also help you overcome foreign language anxiety and cast aside myths about language learning.
Yes, we’re talking about language learning quotes. These inspiring gems will keep you grounded and maybe even motivate you to become the next amazing polyglot.
So whenever you need a language learning morale boost, look no further than these 10 uplifting quotes!
Why Read Language Learning Quotes?
First and foremost, language learning quotes are motivational. The best quotes serve as helpful reminders of why you wanted to learn a language in the first place. And a little extra motivation never hurt anyone—language learning motivation will keep you pressing forward towards fluency.
Plus, language learning quotes are powerful. A well thought-out quote can actually be quite moving and make you feel like a language learning warrior.
Finally, language learning quotes will help you look at language from a different perspective. When you’re in the throes of language learning, it can be hard to see the bigger picture. With all the vocabulary and grammar rules, you might instead focus on the nitpicky details. Language quotes can help redirect your focus to why learning a language is so valuable.
10 Quotes to Kindle the Flame of Language Learning
Those who know nothing of foreign languages know nothing of their own.
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Good old Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. All in all, he was a pretty impressive guy. He lived in Germany from 1749 to 1832 and wore many hats, including statesman, poet and novelist. If that isn’t enough to impress you, he also studied natural science.
Growing up, Goethe studied several languages, including English, French, Italian, Latin, Greek and Hebrew. It should come as no surprise, then, that he made this statement, which any language learner is likely to echo. Whenever you start to learn an additional language, you inherently learn more about your own.
The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.
— Ludwig Wittgenstein
Ludwig Wittgenstein was an Austrian-British philosopher who lived from 1889 to 1951. His work focused on logic, math and (you guessed it) language.
Wittgenstein linked the limits of language to the limits of philosophical thought. You can see that influence in this quote. After all, it’s difficult to think carefully about things that you lack words for. For language learners, this quote is empowering because you may have words in your second language to describe things you could never describe in your first language, thereby broadening the limits of your world.
If we spoke a different language, we would perceive a somewhat different world.
— Ludwig Wittgenstein
Wittgenstein had a lot of great quotes about languages, so it seems fair that he made this list twice. This quotation points out the link between language and perception. Since perception is filtered through the words we know, the language you speak can actually shape what you perceive.
For instance, if the language you speak has a dozen different words for shades of blue, you’re more likely to notice color differences than if there’s just one word for blue in your language. But language learners, take heart! By learning more languages, perhaps you can broaden your perception.
The conquest of learning is achieved through the knowledge of languages.
— Roger Bacon
Roger Bacon, a friar and philosopher who lived in England during the 13th century, penned this gem about languages. It’s important to note that during that era the populace was predominantly illiterate. Bacon, however, was fluent in several languages and was particularly concerned with the accurate translation of old texts.
While much has changed since the 13th century, this quote still seems to ring true today. The more languages you know, the more you can learn in general.
To have another language is to possess a second soul.
Charlemagne was a European king in the 700s-800s. He’s well known for promoting literacy in an era when it wasn’t popular. He himself continued to try to learn, read and write even in his older years.
Charlemagne likely spoke a Franconian language, in addition to Latin and some Greek. He encouraged translations of Christian texts and his royal library contained books on language. Charlemagne’s quote will certainly make any language learner think—how do you change when you speak your second language?
If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.
— Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela is perhaps one of the best known figures of the twentieth century. The beloved anti-Apartheid leader, philanthropist, President of South Africa and Nobel Peace Prize recipient was brilliant at bringing people together. This quote illustrates the role of language in bringing people together.
Communicating with people in their native language is an undeniably valuable way to form deeper and more meaningful connections. If that isn’t a good reason to keep studying a language, I don’t know what is.
The man who does not know other languages, unless he is a man of genius, necessarily has deficiencies in his ideas.
— Victor Hugo
Victor Hugo is one of the best known French writers in history. He penned classics like “Les Misérables” and “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame,” but this simple yet spot-on quote about language is just as powerful. It clarifies how knowing only one language can limit one’s thoughts.
Language shapes the way we think, and determines what we can think about.
— Benjamin Lee Whorf
Benjamin Lee Whorf was a 20th century American linguist. During his life he studied a wide array of languages, including Biblical Hebrew, Nahuatl, Hopi, Piman and Tepecano. He also worked to develop the principle of linguistic relativity, which focuses on how language can affect one’s worldview.
The overall sentiment of this quote is quite similar to that of the Victor Hugo quote above: language deeply impacts both how we think and what we think about. By extension, knowing more languages might allow you to think about more things.
Language is a city to the building of which every human being has brought a stone.
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson was an American transcendentalist who lived during the 1800s. He wrote largely about self-reliance and individualism. It should perhaps come as no surprise, then, that this quote focuses on the role of the individual in language development.
Essentially, this quote states that each person contributes to the development of a language. For language learners, it’s a helpful reminder that you aren’t just learning a language—you’re also helping to shape it.
It is astonishing how much enjoyment one can get out of a language that one understands imperfectly.
— Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve
Besides having a really cool name, Gildersleeve was an American classical scholar who lived in the late 1800s and early 1900s. His specialty was Greek, but any language student can appreciate this quote.
As a language student, it can often seem that your own weaknesses are constantly shoved in your face and that anything short of full fluency is a failure. Gildersleeve’s quote is an important reminder that you don’t have to be perfect at a language to enjoy it wholeheartedly.
With these 10 inspiring quotes at your side, you’ll always have the extra motivation you need to push a little further in your language education.