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In How Many Languages Could You Be Loved and Be Loved?

In How Many Languages Could You Be Loved and Be Loved?

We already know that Valentine’s Day is celebrated worldwide but have you ever wondered how each language/culture manifests the expression of love?  In the United States, we have an abundance of love and use the word sparingly for just about anything whether it’s to describe our love for the outdoors, the movies, sports and music.  We use social media to express that love to the point where it cheapens the meaning of the word.  When it comes to interpersonal relationships and per a 2010 study published by the Journal on Intercultural Relations, US couples were found to say “I love you” more often than their German counterparts. So why do we do it?  Some believe that the U.S. was influenced by the “liberation” of the 1960s and other movements that have encouraged more emotional openness here than in other countries.

One of the first phrases people like to learn when studying a foreign language is how to say, “I love you”.  It comes as no surprise since we all like to express how we feel about the important people in our lives whether it be friends, family, spouses or significant others.  Here is an overview of “I love you” in 10 target languages/cultures and some fun facts as to where, when and how they are used:


Spanish: The Spanish culture distinguishes love for people from love for inanimate objects. While Te quiero (tay key-AIR-oh) is a casual way to say ” love you” to a friend, Te amo (tay Am-oh) is a more binding way, whereas encantarse is used to describe love for objects.


Portuguese: Portuguese uses a melodic and expressive intonation with drawn out vowels. Eu te amo (eyo che a-moh) expresses “I love you”.  While primarily spoken in Brazil and Portugal, Portuguese can also be heard in Mozambique, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau and São Tomé.


Italian: Since the Italian language is one of the most poetic and passionate languages, there are arguably 100 ways to say “I love you” in Italian with Ti amo [tee am-oh] as the most common.


French: Considered as the most romantic language of the world, French builds upon centuries of music, poetry, art and culture that contribute to its romance and allure. Je t’aime (zhuh t’em) tops the list as the most common expression of love.


German: With more varieties for romantic expression, the German’s expression of “I love you” can come across as more formal with Ich liebe dich or more dramatic with Du bist die Liebe meines Lebens (you are the love of my life) or more casual and friendly with friends, relatives and inanimate objects with Ich hab dich gern.


Chinese: Per a Chinese study authored to explain the use of “I love you” to English students in China, it was found that the practice of using the word is often avoided so as not to cause embarrassment, and that it can come across as shallow and frivolous in Chinese culture, where actions speak louder than words. That said, the emerging younger generation is beginning to express the words as wo ai ni (I love you) as opposed to the more reserved wo zihuan ni (I like you) used by older generations.


Korean: While 사랑합니다(saranghamnida) is the formal version of saying “I love you”, and should be used with people you don’t know or when talking to a large group.  사랑해요 (saranghaeyo) is the standard way and 사랑해 (saranghae) the more informal form.


Japanese: While considered as an exotic romantic language, most Japanese choose not to express the words “I love you” as not expressing love in the open is a cultural thing.  If they do say I love you, it is often referred to as Aishiteru(愛してる).


Russian: As with other languages, there is both a formal and less formal way of saying ‘I love you’. The Russian language also provides depth of sentiment in the expression of these words with Я люблю тебя (ya lyublyu tyebya) being the most common way to address a male or female.   


Arabic: Depending on the dialect (ex. Levantine, Egyptian, Maghreb, Gulf), there are many ways to say ‘I love you’ in Arabic. Ana Bahebak (A-NA BA-HE-BACK) (أنا بحبَك/ بحبِك) is the most commonly used for males/females whereas Uḥibbuk (أحبك) is the Modern Arabic version.


From Spanish to Arabic, expressing our love and learning how love is expressed in a different language is an empowering conduit to understanding another culture.  Learning a new language or building upon existing language skills can expand our horizons while giving us a competitive edge.  Gain Contact believes that education is power and a lifelong journey.   Give yourself the gift of language by contacting Gain Bridges ( today!

Written by:

Diala Pharaon

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