51 Quotes to Inspire Language Learners

Do you need a little motivation in your language learning journey? These quotes about language learning and language in general will keep you pressing forward toward fluency.

These quotes are powerful reminders of why you’re studying a language to begin with. A well thought-out quote can actually be quite moving and make you feel like a language learning warrior.

Plus, language quotes can help redirect your focus to why learning a language is so valuable.

These 51 inspiring gems will keep you grounded and maybe even motivate you to become the next amazing polyglot!

Contents

The Power of Languages

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.

Language is power, in ways more literal than most people think. When we speak, we exercise the power of language to transform reality. — Julia Penelope

Language is wine upon the lips. — Virginia Woolf

Language learning is a treasure that follows its owner everywhere. — Chinese Proverb

As names have power, words have power. Words can light fires in the minds of men. Words can wring tears from the hardest hearts. — Patrick Rothfuss

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.

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Language exerts hidden power, like the moon on the tides. — Rita Mae Brown

Words are a form of action, capable of influencing change. — Ingrid Bengis

Language is the light of the mind. — John Stuart Mill

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.

The accent is the soul of the language, it gives it not only feeling, but also authenticity. — Jean Jacques Rousseau

Language is the road map of a culture. It tells you where its people come from and where they are going. — Rita Mae Brown

Learning Multiple Languages

To have another language is to possess a second soul. Charlemagne

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?

One language sets you in a corridor for life. Two languages open every door along the way. — Frank Smith

Learning another language is not only learning different words for the same things but learning another way to think about things. — Flora Lewis

One who speaks only one language is one person, but one who speaks two languages is two people. — Turkish proverb

The more languages you know, the more you are human. — Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk

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.

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You live a new life for every new language you speak. If you know only one language, you live only once. — Czech proverb

Language is the blood of the soul into which thoughts run and out of which they grow. — Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr

Learning another language is like becoming another person. — Haruki Murakami

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.

I speak Spanish to God, Italian to women, French to men, and German to my horse. — Charles V

As a hawk flieth not high with one wing, even so a man reacheth not to excellence with one tongue. — Roger Ascham

To learn a language is to have one more window from which to look at the world. — Chinese proverb

Language as Culture

Language is not just words. It’s a culture, a tradition, a unification of a community, a whole history that creates what a community is. — Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky was a prominent linguist and activist, known for his concept of universal grammar and his groundbreaking ideas about language acquisition and structure.

According to Chomsky, language brings people together and helps shape their shared identity as a community. Language isn’t just about words and grammar rules but also about the culture and social aspects that come with it. It shapes how people think, interact and understand each other.

Chomsky’s ideas emphasize how language and culture are deeply connected and how they shape the experiences and relationships within a community.

Language is the only homeland. — Czesław Miłosz

Language is the means of getting an idea from my brain into yours without surgery. — Mark Amidon

Everyone smiles in the same language. — George Carlin

French is the language that turns dirt into romance. — Stephen King

We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives. — Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison was a highly acclaimed American novelist, essayist and Nobel laureate in Literature (1993). Morrison is known for her powerful storytelling and this quote is a great example of the power her words can have, even in just a few short sentences.

Morrison suggests that while mortality is an inherent part of our existence and may represent the ultimate meaning of life, our ability to engage in language is what gives significance and value to our lives. Morrison implies that language, in all its forms of expression, communication and storytelling, is a defining aspect of our human experience.

It’s through language that we find connection and understanding, and leave our mark on the world.

A different language is a different vision of life. — Federico Fellini

Language is the foundation of civilization. It is the glue that holds a people together. It is the first weapon drawn in a conflict. — Ian Donnelly, from the movie “Arrival”

I am always sorry when any language is lost, because languages are the pedigrees of nations. — Samuel Johnson

Samuel Johnson (not to be confused with Samuel L. Johnson!) was an influential 18th-century English writer, lexicographer and literary critic. Johnson literally wrote the book on language: He was the first to compile a comprehensive English dictionary, titled “A Dictionary of the English Language.”

Clearly, Johnson was passionate about preserving languages. He believed that languages are more than just a means of communication—they hold the historical and cultural lineage of nations. When a language disappears, a part of that nation’s history and unique perspective is also lost.

So if you’re still at the stage where you’re deciding which language to learn, why not consider studying a language that’s at risk of disappearing forever?

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Language is the apparel in which your thoughts parade before the public. — George Crane

Communication and Connection

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.

Language is not a genetic gift, it is a social gift. Learning a new language is becoming a member of the club—the community of speakers of that language. — Frank Smith

We think in language. We think in words. Language is the landscape of thought. —George Carlin

Human speech is like a cracked kettle on which we tap crude rhythms for bears to dance to, while we long to make music that will melt the stars. — Gustave Flaubert

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.

Thought is the blossom; language the bud; action the fruit behind it. — Ralph Waldo Emerson

If you’re trying to persuade people to do something, or buy something, it seems to me you should use their language, the language they use every day, the language in which they think. — David Ogilvy

With languages, you can move from one social situation to another. With languages, you are at home anywhere. — Edmund de Waal

The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug. — Mark Twain

In this funny quote, famous American writer and humorist Mark Twain compares the difference between the right word and an almost right word to the contrast between a dazzling lightning bolt and a feeble lightning bug.

Twain’s witty analogy underscores the significance of choosing precise and fitting words in communication, as the right words have a powerful impact, while the almost right ones fall short and lack the desired effect. 

If you’re a language learner yourself and want to know what kinds of words native speakers would use while speaking, you can have a look at the online program FluentU.

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You’ll come across the issue of selecting the right word while on your language learning journey, and discover that sometimes using the almost-right word can get you in some catastrophic trouble! (Like that time you declared to your host family in Spain that you’re pregnant instead of embarrassed. Oops!)

Language is the dress of thought. — Samuel Johnson

Language is the most massive and inclusive art we know, a mountainous and anonymous work of unconscious generations. — Edward Sapir

Wisdom and Enlightenment

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.

Language is the armory of the human mind, and at once contains the trophies of its past and the weapons of its future conquests. — Samuel Taylor Coleridge

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.

Language is the armory of the human mind, and at once contains the trophies of its past and the weapons of its future conquests. — Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Knowledge of languages is the first gateway to wisdom. — Roger Bacon

 

With these 51 inspiring quotes at your side, you’ll always have the extra motivation you need to push a little further in your language education.

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