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Encouraging quotes, Chinese proverbs with original translations, and inspirational thoughts for language learners


Full disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. ?

I asked those following my Facebook, twitter and G+ pages what their favourite encouragement quotes or short inspirational ideas were, to inspire language learners and got some real gems! I also did my own research online and tried to include some sayings on this blog that people have really enjoyed.

And finally, I searched long and hard for the best Chinese proverbs relevant to language learning and went the extra mile to provide the original Chinese (simplified and traditional) along with the pinyin pronunciation, and tone marks. 😉

If I missed any really good ones, make sure to let us know in the comments and I'll keep this post updated! Definitely share your own uplifting quotes with us! They can be specifically about language learning, about learning in general, or any words that you feel can be applied to inspire language learners, from famous people, or that you have simply come across that have inspired you. I hope the comments will be as interesting as the post itself!

Don't forget to share this post with your friends (using the floating share buttons on the left) to spread some inspirational language learning encouragement! 😉 When you do that, I recommend adding a note to your share with your favourite quote on this page! Enjoy!

Words of encouragement from famous and historical figures on language learning

“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

“Those who know nothing of foreign languages know nothing of their own.” ‒ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“The sum of human wisdom is not contained in any one language.” ‒ Ezra Pound,

“The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.” – Ludwig Wittgenstein

“We should learn languages because language is the only thing worth knowing even poorly.” – Kató Lomb

“To have another language is to possess a second soul”- Emperor Charlemagne

“When a person has an accent, it means he can speak one more language than you” – Fernando Lamas

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

Anonymous quotes on language learning

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

“Grammar: The difference between knowing your shit and knowing you're shit”

Man lernt Grammatik aus der Sprache, nicht Sprache aus der Grammatik. (You learn grammar from language, not language from grammar)

“Grammar is like a really powerful pharmaceutical: helpful in small doses, but fatal when over-prescribed.”

Is fearr Gaeilge briste na Béarla cliste [Broken Irish is better than clever English]

Chinese proverbs (with original simplified/traditional Chinese and pinyin)

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step…. 千里之行﹐始于足下 [千里之行﹐始於足下]  Qiānlǐ zhī xíng, shǐ yú zú xià

Failure is the mother of success  …. 失败是成功之母 [失敗是成功之母] ….. Shī bài shì chéng gōng zhī mǔ

Making a thousand decisions, even the wise will make a mistake…. 智者千虑必有一失 [智者千慮必有一失] Zhìzhě qiān lǜ, bì yǒu yī shī

“Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I’ll understand.” …. 不闻不若闻之,闻之不若见之,见之不若知之,知之不若行之;学至于行之而止矣 [不聞不若聞之,聞之不若見之,見之不若知之,知之不若行之;學至於行之而止矣] Bù wén bù ruò wén zhī, wén zhī bù ruò jiàn zhī, jiàn zhī bù ruò zhīzhī, zhīzhī bù ruò xíng zhī; xué zhìyú xíng zhī ér zhǐ yǐ.

One step at a time (Crawl before you walk)… 循序渐进 [循序漸進] Xún xù jiàn jìn

Reading ten thousand books is not as useful as travelling ten thousand miles. (A pound of practice is more worth than an ounce of theory.)…. 读万卷书不如行万里路 [讀萬卷書不如行萬里路] Dú wàn juǎn shū bùrú xíng wànlǐ lù.

Try to save the dead horse as if it is still alive. (Nothing is impossible)… 死马当活马医 [死馬當活馬醫] Sǐ mǎ dāng huó mǎ yī.

Teachers open the door. You enter by yourself. …. 师傅领进门,修行在个人 [師傅領進門,修行在個人] Shī fu lǐng jìn mén, xiū xíng zài gè rén.

When we get to the mountain, there'll be a way through (Every problem has a solution)…. 车到山前必有路 [車到山前必有路] Chē dào shān qián bì yǒu lù

Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere…  学习是永远跟随主人的宝物 [學習是永遠跟隨主人的寶物] Xuéxí shì yǒngyuǎn gēnsuí zhǔrén de bǎowù]

Khatzumoto quotes

Khatzumoto, who writes at Alljapaneseallthetime comes up with some wonderful nuggets all the time on his twitter account:

Generally, when we say “talented” what we actually mean is “responds well to known/popular/existing teaching methods”.

“You don't know a language, you live it. You don't learn a language, you get used to it.”

“Toddlers aren't better than you. They just have no escape routes”

“Don't do your best. Do something. Make the best of it”

“Learning grammar in order to use a language is like learning organic chemistry in order to make a sandwich.”

Motivational quotes to inspire language learners

“Discipline is choosing between what you want now and what you want most.”

“A year from now you will wish you had started today”. – Karen Lamb

“Do or do not, there is no try” – Yoda

“It is not important to be better than someone else, but to be better than yesterday.”

“You don't learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over” – Richard Branson

I hated every minute of training, but I said, “Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.” – Muhammad Ali

“The most valuable thing you can make is a mistake. You can't learn anything from being perfect.” – Adam Osborne

“Everybody's a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it'll spend its life believing that it's stupid” ~Albert Einstein

“If you can find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn't lead anywhere.” –Frank A. Clark

“Life begins where your comfort zone ends”

“Would you like me to give you a formula for success? It’s quite simple, really. Double your rate of failure.” – Thomas Watson, IBM

“Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare” – Japanese proverb (行動のともなわないビジョンは、ただの白日夢。ビジョンのない行動は、ただの悪夢。 )

Fall down seven times, stand up eight – Japanese proverb (七転び八起き, “Nanakorobi yaoki”)

“The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is now” – Chinese proverb (Couldn't find original on this – if you know it, let us know in comments!)

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” – Samuel Beckett

“If skill could be gained by watching, every dog would become a butcher.” – Turkish proverb

“Being challenged in life is inevitable, being defeated is optional.” – Roger Crawford

“Mistakes are the portals of discovery.” — James Joyce

People's favourite quotes from this blog/twitter/Facebook

“The difference between a stumbling block and a stepping stone is how high you raise your foot.”

“I'm a proud imperfectionist. Perfection is impossible, so by default perfection is for losers.”

“Learning languages isn't about being smart, it's about being tenacious.” (inspired by this comment)

“Any idiot can learn a language… perhaps I have to be that idiot.”

“A language is a tool. A means to an end. It deserves as much “respect” as a toaster does. Bend it to your will and communicate!”

“Stop making excuses and get the hell on with it!”

“If you always keep your feet planted firmly on the ground, you'll have serious trouble putting on your trousers. Aim high, dive in unprepared, don't take it all so seriously, and you may actually get somewhere!”

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Benny Lewis

Founder, Fluent in 3 Months

Fun-loving Irish guy, full-time globe trotter and international bestselling author. Benny believes the best approach to language learning is to speak from day one.

Speaks: Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Esperanto, Mandarin Chinese, American Sign Language, Dutch, Irish

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