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Language learning is often associated with academic pursuits, professional enhancements, or travel needs. While these reasons are certainly valid, they only capture a part of the wide spectrum of motivations that propel individuals toward multilingualism.

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Key takeaways:

  • People learn languages for various reasons, not all of them academically inclined.
  • Personal reasons and emotions can significantly impact language learning motivation.
  • The influence of pop culture and relationships often prompts language learning.
  • Unanticipated circumstances can lead to new language-learning endeavors.

Digging deeper, we find many unorthodox, personal, and sometimes humorous reasons that spark this journey. From a Star Wars-inspired quest to perfect English pronunciation to a crush on a French substitute teacher or even an intriguing newspaper article about the “happiest” language, the triggers can be as diverse as the languages themselves.

A lively discussion on one of the language-learning forums provides an intriguing glimpse into these lesser-known catalysts of language learning. With thousands of upvotes, it has sparked a fascinating conversation among language enthusiasts worldwide, revealing an array of unexpected motivations that are both captivating and insightful.

Star Wars, Crushes and Preventing Alzheimer’s: Unorthodox Routes to Bilingualism

Eight-year-old Jason (name created for the article) mispronounced Darth Vader’s name, leading to years of English language studies. He shared his humorous language-learning journey on social media. Jason’s motivation for improving his English originated from a playful taunt by his Star Wars-obsessed relative. But it didn’t stop there, a handsome substitute teacher inspired his French language studies. Jason is not alone in his unconventional language-learning journey, though. The post’s top comments are a testament to the myriad of ways people find themselves on the path of multilingualism.

An Unexpected Spectrum of Motivations

Alzheimer’s prevention research intrigued one learner to add more languages under their belt. In contrast, another found inspiration from fleeting crushes who imparted a sense of coolness to their native languages. One felt an obligation to their late grandmother to continue their Dutch studies. A Japanese friend’s love for Polish music inspired her to perfect her Polish to a native speaker’s level over 20 years.

Reading a book in French was deemed prestigious in one learner’s childhood book, prompting them to learn French, and a fan of Rammstein’s music improved his German significantly after listening to their songs:

The German band "Rammstein"
Learning languages is often driven by music preferences. The German band “Rammstein.” Image source:
“I did german in school and was trash at it, I got F and E mostly (E is a grade where I’m from). Then I started listening to rammstein and after a month i was really good, so I decided to continue.”

For one user, an incorrect book delivery sparked their Russian studies. They had received the original Russian version of “Onegin” and decided to learn the language due to their annoyance at owning a book they couldn’t read.

“I took a Russian lit class in college, and when I ordered my books, one bookseller accidentally sent me an original Russian copy of Onegin rather than the English translation I ordered. He was very apologetic and accommodating and overnighted the correct edition to me. When I asked if he could send me a shipping label to return the other book, he told me to just keep it. It bugged me so much to own a book I could not read that, after two years of getting annoyed every time I saw it on my shelf, I gave in and added Russian to my Duolingo.”

An airshow and an Arabic transliteration of their name ignited another’s interest in different writing systems, leading them to Russian studies at the DLIFLC. A similar thing happened to a Brazilian Portuguese learner’s love for a celebrity, leading them to understand a group of teenage girls discussing the celebrity in Portuguese.


The story reveals that motivations for learning languages go far beyond academic or professional reasons. People often embark on their language-learning journey due to personal triggers, influential individuals, and unforeseen circumstances. These unexpected motivations can result in a life-long passion for languages and a stronger connection with different cultures and communities.

Related stories:

Behind the Scenes of Duolingo’s Language Learning Revolution

The Science of Language Learning: Tips of the Month

Navigating the Language Learning Journey: Experiences and Strategies with Duolingo

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