To find some inspiration, we decided to take a look at words of encouragement spoken in different languages all around the world. Each culture has its own unique (and sometimes untranslatable) idioms that help motivate, but it turns out there are some similarities that unite cheerleaders and motivators everywhere. Here are our favorite expressions to use the next time you need to give someone a pep talk.
Food is one theme that many of the phrases we came across have in common, because what better motivation than a tasty treat? These “You can do it!” phrases use the sweet (and savory) to help strengthen your confidence.
1. C’est du gâteau! (French)
Meaning: It’s a piece of cake! (lit.); you can easily accomplish that
You might have heard this expression before, as many languages have their own translations of it (Swedes and Norwegians prefer pancakes!). So, what makes a piece of cake easy? Presumably, cakes are fairly straightforward to bake (unless you want to get fancy with the decorations) and they certainly make for a nice reward after a hard day’s work. The next time a friend says they can’t do something you know they could easily manage, use this phrase to gently encourage them (or, you know, just bribe them with some cake).
2. To dla ciebie bułka z masłem! (Polish)
Meaning: It’s bread with butter for you! (lit.); you can easily accomplish that
This Polish idiom shakes things up a bit and substitutes the piece of cake for a slice of bread and butter. Certainly no less tasty, this is a great alternative to tell someone that what they’re about to do will come easy to them — a walk in the park, so to speak. Anyone else hungry? Good, because we have one last delectable expression for you.
3. Non tutte le ciambelle escono con il buco! (Italian)
Meaning: Not every donut comes with a hole! (lit.); things do not always go as planned; life is not perfect
Perhaps the most whimsical on our list, this Italian proverb really gets creative with the food motif. Is a donut without a hole any less delicious? Of course not! This metaphor shows that even if you mess up, you can still get something worthwhile out of your experience. It also recognizes that you might not be successful at everything you do, and that is totally OK.
Speaking of proverbs, virtually every culture has its own unique words of wisdom that come in handy when you need a little motivation. These next few expressions provide great all-around advice to help encourage someone along.
4. Roma no se construyó en un día. (Spanish)
Meaning: Rome was not built in a day (lit.); success takes time and effort
Sometimes you can feel daunted when you set out to learn a new skill or tackle a big task. This Spanish idiom, which also exists in other European languages, recognizes that big achievements often take time and effort. Indeed, it took the Romans years of imperial planning and conquering to reach the grandeur we read about in textbooks. Spanish speakers use this metaphor to say that it’s OK to feel overwhelmed, but to not let that stop you! If you plan ahead, put in the work, and keep your goals in focus, you can achieve more than you think.
5. Damlaya damlaya göl olur. (Turkish)
Meaning: Drops become a lake (lit.); small things add up
Turkish is well-known for its rich assortment of poetic proverbs, and this idiom perfectly illustrates the language’s ability to paint images with words: While single drops of water may seem insignificant on their own, they can add up over time to form something grander. Like the Spanish example above, Turkish speakers use this metaphor to motivate people who think their goals are unachievable. It’s a helpful reminder that says when you take baby steps and break work down into manageable pieces, your accumulated effort will pay off.
6. Øvelse gjør mester! (Norwegian)
Meaning: Practice makes the master! (lit.); practice makes perfect
While the Spanish and Turkish examples both use metaphors to get the point across, this Norwegian phrase takes things a bit more literally. You might have heard a similar phrase in English, and indeed many Germanic languages have their own versions. It is practical and to the point: If you try to learn a new skill, you should not expect to be great at it overnight. If you practice consistently, though, you will see results.
7. Тяжело в ученье — легко в бою! (Russian)
Meaning: Hard in learning — easy in battle (lit.); what is difficult in training will become easy in a doing
Similarly practical in nature, this motivational phrase is actually a quote from one of Russia’s renowned military leaders, Alexander Suvorov. His blunt words of encouragement put things into perspective: practice is not always easy. There will be rough days when you feel ready to give up. However, if you dedicate yourself to the hard work it takes to hone your knowledge and skills, you will be well-prepared to apply your practical experiences in real life.
Sport players know the importance of motivation. When it comes time to play ball after months of practice and training, it can help to have someone cheer you on from the sidelines. These languages sure know how to give a good pep talk!
8. Don’t throw in the towel! (English)
Meaning: Don’t give up yet!
Sometimes when the game gets tough, the temptation to quit can be hard to resist. The same as “Don’t throw in the sponge,” this expression comes from the sport of boxing, when a boxer symbolically throws their sweat towel into the ring to signify defeat. Though it is good to know your limits, these words of encouragement remind you that you should also know when to keep going.
9. Show de bola! (Brazilian Portuguese)
Meaning: Ball show! (lit.); excellent
This Brazilian compliment is a slang phrase alternative for “awesome” or “excellent.” It also originates in sports, this time soccer (or football, depending where you are), and it translates more broadly to the remark, “What a great game!” Both on and off the field, this exclamation is perfect to holler at someone who just did a great job.
10. Ända in i kaklet! (Swedish)
Meaning: All the way into the tiles! (lit.); keep going until the very end
Swimmers know all about endurance: This Swedish expression comes from swim coaches who yell at their racers to give enough power to their last strokes as they approach the tiled pool wall at the end of a race. It’s a testament to the stamina and perseverance it takes to see something through until the very end.
Our list could really go on forever, but here are a few more simple, yet effective words of encouragement to see you off.
11. Der er ingen ko på isen. (Danish)
Meaning: There is no cow on the ice (lit.); there is no problem or cause for concern.
12. É melzinho na chupeta! (Brazilian Portuguese)
Meaning: It’s honey in the pacifier! (lit.); you can easily accomplish that
13. Başlamak başarmanın yarısıdır. (Turkish)
Meaning: To start is (already) half the success. (lit); starting is half the battle
Now It’s Your Turn!
Want to help brighten the mood of fellow learners and get them pumped up about learning your language? Well here’s your chance! Send us a weird and fascinating way to say “Good job! Keep it up!” in your country, and we might put it in our app!
When someone learning your native language gets something right, your saying might pop up to cheer them on. Pretty cool, right?