Top Ten Best Proverbs About Language Learning

Korean temple

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. –Chinese proverb

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. ‒Czech proverb

Those who know many languages proverb

3) One who speaks only one language is one person, but one who speaks two languages is two people. ‒Turkish Proverb


4) A new language is a new life. –Persian Proverb

In Persian: یک زبان جدید یک زندگی جدید است.

5) Learn a language, and you’ll avoid a war. –Arab Proverb

In Arabic: من تعلم لغة قوم أمن مكرهم

6) With a language, you can go to Rome. –Quebec Proverb

In French: Avec une langue, on peut aller à Rome.

7) If you want people to understand you, speak their language. –African Proverb


8) Love has its own language, but marriage falls back on the local dialect. –Russian proverb


9) Learn a new language and get a new soul. –Czech Proverb


10) The best time to learn a language was 20 years ago. The second best time is now. –Lingholic

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”.

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago

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.

By Lingholic

24 thoughts on “Top Ten Best Proverbs About Language Learning”

  1. I love

    Those who know many languages live as many lives as the languages they know

    I feel like a different person depending on the language I speak so this really sounds familiar.

    For example when I speak German I feel much more shy than when I speak English or Korean.

    There is also a great quote from Mandela :

    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

    1. Agree completely. Except I wouldn’t concur with your feeling about German (which I also speak), which is interesting – it just shows that it is a personal thing, rather than related directly to the language.

      Or is it? Maybe there are nonetheless trends that could be identified in personalities, related to the language being spoken. Now that would be fascinating research. The problem of such research would be finding a suitable control group.

    2. That is my favorite one too. Ifeel actually stronger whem speak German, but a lot more free when I speak Spanish.
      To each it’s own. But certainly I am living more lives in one 🙂

    1. Thanks for pointing this out Alexey. I did see a few different translations of this proverb, but the more common one was the one I put here in the article. Are you aware of any other way this proverb can be written in Arabic? Thanks~

      1. I know only two version: the one you put here and
        من تعلم لغة قوم أمن شرهم
        The difference is in the last word: in your version it is “their intrigues”, in this one it is “their evil”.

      2. شاعر الوداد

        he is right, the translation in the article has almost nothing to do with the real meaning, I would suggest as a translation: One who learned the language of a nation, avoided their ploy, trick, ruse, conspiracy, I don’t have an exact translation of the word مكر
        It has nothing to do with war, instead this proverb encourage to learn the language of your enemy to avoid their ploy! (but anyway they will cript their messages xD)

  2. I really like the first proverb because it has a lot of truth in it. If you go to another country speaking only your native language can really shut you out, and you might not understand the others. After learning a second language you can communicate with the natives, and see the world through their eyes. It really gives you a second point of view in life to fall back on when making a decision.

  3. #9 is a lovely one.
    My contribution: Goethe said: “Those who know nothing of a foreign language knows nothing of their own [language]”

    1. Great quote! I’ve seen that one quite a few times. However, for the purposes of this article I was trying to find proverbs rather than quote. I’ll have to write a similar article in the near future but about famous language-related quotes instead!

    1. Well, while I think French is a beautiful language, I would be hesitant to say it is “the” most beautiful language; so many languages are beautiful in their own right, and of course, languages are inseparable from culture and each and every culture is fascinating and worth knowing more about, in my opinion.

  4. David Andrés Hoyos Rondón

    The 8 is not a russian proverb, I dont know where did you get that but my russians friends doesnt know it. Google it and you wont find a trustworthy reference.

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