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Inspiring Language Quotes from Famous Polyglots

This week I thought I’d write something a little different. As you may know by now, I write this blog to keep myself – and hopefully anyone who reads it – excited about learning Spanish and independent language learning in general.
Sometimes the hardest parts of learning a language by yourself are to stay self-disciplined and motivated – unless you’re a polyglot (aka one of those people that speak A LOT of languages) .They seem to have all the answers and if it works for them, it might work for us too?
For today’s post, I have decided to gather some – hopefully – inspiring language quotes from a few polyglots in no particular order – some you may have heard of and some you may not.

Richard Simcott, The Hyperglot

British Richard Simcott speaks over 16 languages, so he’s actually something called a hyperpolyglot. Apparently he was one of the first people to jump on the YouTube wagon and some of his videos have got over half a million views – that’s very impressive. It’s not just his ability to learn languages that has made him super popular, but also his positivity.
I really like the way that he encourages other people to make their own videos and speak with him in various languages.

Here’s just one of Richard’s many inspirational quotes about language learning:

Richard Simcott Inspiring Quotes
(Blurb on Mr. Simcott’s YouTube Channel)

Luca Lampariello, The Italian Polystud… eeerm Polyglot

Luca Lampariello is Italian, he speaks a bunch of languages like a native person (and he’s very cute). Furthermore Luca loves to share his wisdom with people from around the world. He has a motto of sorts: “languages cannot be taught, they can only be learned“. What he means by this, is that a language is a skill you require over time by trial and error, you can’t be taught something you don’t want to learn. Only the investment of time and interest will make you a good language learner.

Luca Lampariello

Luca compares the learning of a language to that of learning to ride a bicycle; imagine if you were made to read a theory book on bike riding rather than actually riding a bike. It would make no sense, you have to actually get on that bike. A theory won’t tell you how to keep your balance and not fall off the bike. Language learning is much the same, according to Luca. A big fat book full of grammar rules will not teach you a language, speaking it and listening to others speaking it, will. That makes sense, and Luca is just full of inspiring gems like that.

Inspiring Quotes LUCA LAMPARIELLOFrom Luca’s Blog

Benny, The Irish Polyglot

This guy – Benny Lewis – seems to be one of, if not the most, popular internet polyglot. He used to speak nothing but English, with an Irish accent but one day he decided to go travel the world and learn the languages of the countries he visits, it almost sounds like a fairytale. He now speaks more than a dozen languages including Spanish, French, Portuguese, Esperanto, German, Irish, and even American sign language.

Benny also writes an interesting, honest blog about his travels, language learning and life and all I can say about that is – I’m not jealous (where’s that sarcasm font when you need it?).
Benny, like Richard, is a positive guy who has some inspiring quotes about language learning. To him it’s all about priorities and once again…motivation. He says:
One of the biggest problems we have in language learning – but we don’t know it – and that’s motivation. A lot of us start with the wrong motivation to learn a language. We’re learning the language just to pass an exam, to improve our career prospects or – in my case – for superficial reasons, to impress people. But the reason polyglots learn languages is because they’re passionate about that language. They are passionate about the literature and the movies and being able to read in a language and of course to use it with people, and when I changed that priority of using the language with people, I was able to learn the languages myself.” (Warsaw Ted Talk)

Timothy Doner, Don’t Stress

Timothy Doner is 19 years old now and speaks some awesome languages that I’d never even heard of until I started researching this stuff, such as Hausa, Wolof, Ojibwe (a native American language) and isiXhosa (and African language with clicking sounds).
He’s from New York and that’s perfect for him because living in one of the most diverse cities in the world, means that he is able to go meet people that speak many different languages and expose himself to their languages and – in his own words – embarrass himself, while attempting to converse in the languages himself.

He made a YouTube video when he was 16 (now watched by over 3.5 million people) in which he speaks 20 different languages and if you watch it, be warned; your head might implode. Tim smiles and giggles throughout his video, while changing from one language to the next and (at least to my untrained ear), sounds like a native in all of them. Timothy is honestly a little intimidating and he’s gotta be some kind of genius, but he has some inspiring quotes and advice that those of us – trying to master just one or two extra languages – can use:
I believe that, while learning, it’s important not to have stress. I don’t try to learn new words from a book, but rather listen to conversations and watch movies. I’ve learned a lot of expressions and also German sentence structure from WW2 and postwar period films.” (Speaking in German in his YouTube video)

Kató Lomb, So Many Inspiring Quotes

Have you noticed anything missing from this list? I have; inspiring quotes from women. There aren’t many female polyglots flaunting their stuff on YouTube for whatever reason (maybe they don’t feel the need to boast about their abilities?). It doesn’t mean they don’t exist. In fact worldwide there are more women enrolled in language classes than men, meaning that women (I am no polyglot, but this includes me) are VERY interested in language learning.

kate lomb inspiring quotes

Others can’t have their own YouTube channel, such as the world-famous female Hungarian polyglot, Kató Lomb, for the simple reason that… she’s dead. Kató learned and made money as an interpreter from 16 languages. She learned most of these as an independent language learner . She learned them mainly because she was crazy-mad in love with languages, something that she has in common with other polyglots, male/female, dead/alive.
What Kató lacks in YouTube channels and other modern self promotion, she’s got in awesome inspiring quotes about language learning.
Self-assurance, motivation, and a good method play a much more important role in language learning than the vague concept of innate ability, and that dealing with languages is not only an effective and joyful means of developing human relationships, but also of preserving one’s mental capacity and spiritual balance.” (From the book: How I Learn Languages)
As the only lady in a long list of dudes, she gets two of her inspiring quotes on this list:
He who knows other languages feels even closer to his own language.” (From the book: How I Learn Languages)

Steve Kaufmann, Age Doesn’t Matter

It probably hasn’t escaped your attention that Steve Kaufmann is also a man, however he is on this list for a number of reasons – one of them being that he is a co-founder of LingQ.
That doesn’t change the fact that he is an esteemed polyglot, and just like the other guys (and gal) on this list, he is crazy passionate about language learning and has many inspiring quotes for us keen language learners.

What makes Steve different from the rest, is that he learned to speak a lot of the languages he knows (currently about 15) later in life. By doing this he has destroyed the myth that learning gets harder as you get older. His view is that it changes, sure, but it’s definitely doable at any age. Learning languages keeps your brain busy and can delay dementia. He also believes that once you’ve got the hang of one extra language, the rest are easier to learn.
Steve too, is a positive guy and he loves all the new technologies that we can use as independent language learners.

inspiring quotes Steve Kaufmann
(Post on Pick the Brain)

What/Who Inspires you?

There are, of course, many more very inspiring polyglots out there and maybe you have someone that inspires you – polyglots or not.
If you do, tell me about them or other things that inspire you in the comment section below.

What is a polyglot? Check out polyglot and LingQ cofounder Steve Kaufmann’s blog post to find out!

Want to learn a language from content you love?


  • Jessica
    May 26, 2015 at 2:14 pm

    Hyunwoo sun! He’s the founder of talktomeinkorean.com!

  • Abeer
    May 26, 2015 at 3:01 pm

    It is so amazing topic ,it is rich of more examples of people who share their experiences to deliver the benefits to others . I like this sentence when he said ” language can’t be tought , they can only be learned “”

    • Lykke
      May 26, 2015 at 3:48 pm

      I think it makes a lot of sense 🙂 I like his bicycle story, puts thing in perspective.

  • Edward Chien
    May 26, 2015 at 3:28 pm

    This is something I put together that I usually have my students read before I start working with them: https://docs.google.com/document/edit?id=1uQlnVIxBhjoUuNK7uJyQ9yvvb-hnNnF2P2j8yf_eAC0&hl=en

    • Lykke
      May 26, 2015 at 3:47 pm

      Amazing – thanks for that. There are pages and pages full of inspiring stuff. There’s even something about Danish. Thanks Edward.

  • mohamed farahat
    May 26, 2015 at 10:18 pm

    I wanna learn english

  • ColibrEve
    June 4, 2015 at 8:44 am

    I am so impressed about the entire discoveries you just gave the chance to make, that I am out of words. Wow ! and Wow ! Good or good ? Ho yes and yes !
    Some people are impressed by the fact that I can speak French, English, German and Spanish, but because I don’t possess all theses languages with the right pronunciation, I am being hard with myself, it is never perfect enough.
    You just now motivated me to do positive videos to help other learning languages. I also have some good tricks. Let’s see…
    I am a passionate polyglot too; why not sharing my passion with others.
    Thank you again for that really nice article !
    ¡Gracias de nuevo por ese Artículo muy bueno!

    • Lykke
      June 4, 2015 at 9:55 am

      You are welcome 🙂 Thanks for reading

    • Lykke
      June 4, 2015 at 10:22 am

      That IS impressive 🙂 That’s a lot of languages. I hope you’ll see this comment, if you are interested I would like to feature other people in my blog – it gets boring just talking about myself all the time. So let me know if you’re interested and we can talk about you in an upcoming post 🙂

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