Best Quotes to Motivate ESL Learners and online English teachers!

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Acadsoc, Ltd. Online English courses provider.

Acadsoc, Ltd. Online English courses provider.

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Motivating your students to learn English online can come in different ways. Sometimes, a line or two is enough to push your student to do better or to make him feel inspired to learn the language no matter how tough he thinks it gets.

Using quotes in classes can also be added to your list of motivators, especially during free conversations. The beauty in talking about quotes is that, as a teacher, when you ask your students what they think about it, they begin to share their opinions. Once they do, not only will you be able to know how they think, you will also be able to assess and evaluate their speaking and comprehension skills.

If you want to use music to motivate your students, you can refer to teacher Ciara’s experience!

Some online English teachers may get confused about the different effect poets and quotes can bring to your students. Poets are usually more graceful and long (if compared with quotes) while quotes are usually 1-2 sentences in length and can be very very sensible in just a few words. One can feel the beauty of English from poets and magic of English from quotes!

Here we list down some of the few popular quotes about the benefits of learning a language or, simply, learning in general. The good thing about these quotes is that all of them use simple, easy-to-understand vocabulary, so won’t be burdened by unlocking so many difficult words.

You can also have the option to introduce the famous people behind these famous quotes. This way, you can add a dimension to your lesson. Show your students some pictures of these people. Talk about where they came from. Discuss very briefly why they’re considered famous. These are options you can look into later on.


“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.” –Nelson Mandela

Nelson-MandelaWould you make the same decisions in a foreign language as you would in your native one? Keysar, Hayakawa and Sun Gyu from the University of Chicago asked this question, and found out that the answer is “no”: our deeply rooted and irrational aversion to loss disappears when a problem is presented in a foreign language; we respond in a cooler, more rational way[i].

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

Ludwig_WittgensteinThis saying is from Ludwig Wittgenstein’s early philosophical work, the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, which presents a view of truth and meaning which is embedded in language, signs and codes, as if these ‘media’ contained the limits of human expression, and therefore the limits of human understanding. Hence ‘world’.[ii]


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

johann-wolfgang-von-goetheLanguage is the source of many misunderstandings, especially so when communicating across cultural boundaries. Although English is popularly known as a widely spoken and understood language in the world, it is still far from sufficient for understanding cultures of other linguistic backgrounds. It goes without saying that you gain more from a visit to a country if you can converse in the local language and actually get to know the people rather than just communicating in English with people in the tourism industry or academic elites. Use of even the most basic vocabulary helps to break down barriers and establish good relationships. It shows your respect towards the people of the country and that you take a genuine interest in them.[iii]

“I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.” –Ernest Hemingway

Ernest HemingwayListening defined here is much more than just hearing! It is not about receiving the sound or even comprehending the message; effective listening is about how you approach your communication with the other, how you engage in this process, with your knowledge, attitudes, and behaviours.[iv]

“If you’re determined to learn, no one can stop you.”–Zig Ziglar

Zig-ZiglarOn the flip side of this quote, if you refuse to learn there is nobody that is going to be able to help you. If you aren’t interested in learning anything new, no matter what people try to tell you, you will not be receptive. It takes an openness of your mind to be able to really function in society and you shut down this superhighway when you choose to stop learning. It may seem like it’s hard at first, but it is really easy to learn every day. All that you need to do is get in the habit of looking things up and seeking new information. It may seem tedious at first, but all you have to do is give it a little bit of your time each day. This way you will be more aware of your surroundings, and you might even begin to like new things. Your past doesn’t define you, and you can reach to levels you didn’t think possible through education.[v]

“It doesn’t matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.”–Confucius

ConfuciusWhy is perseverance important?
Without it, only the easy things would ever get done. Would you ever have learned to walk? How about talking, how frustrating was that? Or learning to read? How about learning to learn, all the years you spent in school being taught all sorts of semi-useful stuff? That didn’t happen quickly.

Where can I apply this in my life?
What are you working towards? What are some of your near-term goals (a year or less), and some longer-term goals (1-5 years)? Think of something, perhaps reshaping your body? How many pounds do you want to lose? How many inches do you want to add to your arms? Do you have an exact time frame (perhaps a reunion is coming soon, or is it almost beach time)?[vi]

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

CharlemagneThe language we speak may influence not only our thoughts but our implicit preferences as well. That’s the finding of a study by psychologists at Harvard University, who found that bilingual individuals’ opinions of different ethnic groups were affected by the language in which they took a test examining their biases and predilections.

“This study suggests that language is much more than a medium for expressing thoughts and feelings. Our work hints that language creates and shapes our thoughts and feelings as well,” said co-author Oludamini Ogunnaike, a graduate student at Harvard.[vii]


Depending on your students’ level of fluency, you can go ahead and ask them to come up with their own quotes. For mid-level/advanced students, online English teachers shall use this as a springboard to their lessons, especially if they need to flesh out a theme for a particular lesson or if they are preparing for a test. As an online English teacher at Acadsoc, try to be flexible, try to combine all kinds of English learning resources together, videos, quotes, poets…

[i] Keysar, B., Hayakawa, S., & Sun Gyu, A. (2012). The foreign language effect: Thinking in a foreign tongue reduces decision biases. Psychological Science, 23, 661–668







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