An often heard saying is that proverbs are the flowers of popular wit and the treasures of popular wisdom. Often short and simple and popularly known and repeated, these nuggets of wisdom express a truth based on the practical experience of humankind, and the idiosyncrasies of a people and their culture in time and history.
This article introduces you to the ten best language-related proverbs out there. While quotations about language learning, such as from authors and influential personalities, abound (in fact, you should have a look at the “quotes” section of this site!), actual proverbs are less easy to come by. If you are familiar with some additional nuggets of wisdom that refer to language learning, perhaps from your place of origin, I would be very much indebted if you could share it with the rest of us in the comments section below. In the meantime, enjoy!
1) TO LEARN A LANGUAGE IS TO HAVE ONE MORE WINDOW FROM WHICH TO LOOK AT THE WORLD.
In Chinese: 学一门语言，就是多一个观察世界的窗户。(xué yì mén yǔyán, jiù shì duō yí ge guānchá shìjiè de chuānghu.)
2) THOSE WHO KNOW MANY LANGUAGES LIVE AS MANY LIVES AS THE LANGUAGES THEY KNOW.
3) ONE WHO SPEAKS ONLY ONE LANGUAGE IS ONE PERSON, BUT ONE WHO SPEAKS TWO LANGUAGES IS TWO PEOPLE.
4) A NEW LANGUAGE IS A NEW LIFE.
In Persian: یک زبان جدید یک زندگی جدید است.
5) LEARN A LANGUAGE, AND YOU’LL AVOID A WAR.
In Arabic: من تعلم لغة قوم أمن مكرهم
6) WITH A LANGUAGE, YOU CAN GO TO ROME.
In French: Avec une langue, on peut aller à Rome.
7) IF YOU WANT PEOPLE TO UNDERSTAND YOU, SPEAK THEIR LANGUAGE.
8) LOVE HAS ITS OWN LANGUAGE, BUT MARRIAGE FALLS BACK ON THE LOCAL DIALECT.
9) LEARN A NEW LANGUAGE AND GET A NEW SOUL.
10) THE BEST TIME TO LEARN A LANGUAGE WAS 20 YEARS AGO. THE SECOND BEST TIME IS NOW.
Alright, I cheated. This is not an actual proverb, but it was strongly inspired by the Chinese proverb “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now”.
So, which proverb made the biggest impression on you?
Pick your favorite, and share it with us below, along with the reasons for your choice.