21 Gifts for Language Lovers (2020)
Picking out gifts for language lovers and learners (if you yourself don’t study languages) can be hard!
The idea for this article came from my own problems finding a great gift for a new language learner in my life… even when I myself have learned plenty of languages!
So before we even start this, I want to promise you that every gift on this list is:
- something I myself use or have gifted other language learners
- hand-picked by me (a polyglot)
- free of corporate product placement
And now, let’s get onto the gift ideas!
Why I wrote this list of gift ideas for language learners
Like I said, the idea for this list of gifts for language lovers came from my own experiences.
When my mom retired last Christmas, I was stumped. Her goal was to learn Italian in retirement, so my idea (as a total language lover) was to get her a gift that was both practical and fun.
Unfortunately, no list of gift ideas like this one existed then.
So eventually, I put together a big box of mixed-up language learning surprises and decorated it to be opened on her first morning of retirement.
Thankfully, the present box was a hit.
So why am I telling you this?
Because all the gifts for language lovers on this list is either something that I bought her that year or something I myself want this year.
(That’s right: my mom follows me on social media, and I fully intend on sharing this article where she can see it.)
So if you’re looking for gifts for the language lovers in your life, I hope this list treats you well.
And if you’re my mom, anything with the 🙋🏻♀️ emoji next to it means that you should totally buy this thing for me for Christmas 😀
Happy gift shopping everyone!
15 stocking-stuffer gifts for language lovers
All of this section’s gifts for language lovers in this section are under $50. For more expensive gifts, you can keep scrolling!
Price: $10 for 2
Why I love it: These anchor bookmarks hold textbooks open better than anything I’ve ever seen. I use them constantly when working through language workbooks or even when reading novels in one of my languages.
Why I love it: This tiny, compact journal comes in a variety of colors and with options for dotted pages instead of lined. For language students who might be drawing charts or diagrams, I think the dots are the best option for our note-taking. (And: the notebooks look so nice, they’ll be a treat to use.)
Why I love it: Markers are awesome for organizing notes and bullet journals. But I’ve tried every fancy marker on the market–and Crayola, surprisingly, has the best color variety and least bleed of anything else. (Plus: they’re by far the cheapest.)
4. Colored Fine Liners 🙋🏻♀️
Why I love it: Even better than markers, a variety of colored pens or fine liners help organize notes. When taking multilingual notes I assign a different color to every language; when drawing out mind maps or diagramming sentences, I want to take notes in a way that helps me review them at-at-glance.
5. IPA mug
Why I love it: Not all language learners are linguists. But if someone in your life adores not only language learning but the study of languages, they’re going to flip out over this mug. (And while I don’t normally get excited about cheapy mugs or merch, this mug was designed by actual linguists)
6. Vertical stationary organizer 🙋🏻♀️
Why I love it: I don’t know what it is about language learners, but our desks are always a mess. Do your language learner a favor and gift them a stationary organizer to help save their desk (and organize any new pens and markers you got them).
There are a ton of options available in various colors, sizes, and functions all around the Internet, so go shop around.
7. Short stories for language learners
Why I love it: Many language learners struggle to read in the language they’re studying in. A common mistake is trying to jump into novels right away. Instead, there are two better solutions (which make awesome gifts):
- The Short Stories by Olly Richards series is available in a number of languages and the easiest book series on the market. These are good for (1) public school students under 16; (2) university students who have taken less than 2 semesters of the language; (3) adults who are still struggling to have conversations in the language.
- The Short Stories by LingoMastery series is personally my favorite. These are good for (1) public school students who have taken more than 4 years in the language; (2) university students who have taken 3 semesters in the language; (3) adults who are starting to become conversational in the language.
- Is your language learner fluent in the language? Or studying a language that isn’t offered by either of these companies? Check out some of my novel and short story book recommendations for language learners here.
8. Cookbooks in their target language
Why I love it: One of the secrets of successful language learners is that it’s not just the languages we love. It’s the people and their cultures. Buying a cookbook is a great way to gift a language learner someone an at-home cultural and linguistic immersion where they can learn and practice vocabulary in a fun, real-life way.
(For beginner language learners, you can sometimes even find bilingual cookbooks!)
Why I love it: This is one of the nerdier gifts on the list. If you’re not familiar with language learning or linguistics, you might not know that nearly all European languages (as well as many Middle Eastern and South Asian languages) share a common linguistic ancestor. The language that our ancestors spoke 10,000 years ago is called Proto-Indo-European.
This amazingly nerdy dictionary will help budding polyglots learn languages faster by teaching them the connection between several of the languages they’re trying to learn. But because it’s rather technical, I only recommend it as a gift for language lovers who speak or study 3+ languages.
10. Bullet journal stencils
Price: $4-12 per stencil
Why I love it: If your language learner already has a ton of stationary stuff, they might be looking for new and nice ways to decorate their notes. Head over to Etsy and search “bullet journal stencil” for tons of fun gift ideas.
(As a pro-tip, stay away from letters, numbers, or anything they can draw themselves. Instead, check out things like themed trackers, geometric patterns, list makers, monthly trackers, or wheel planners.)
Why I love it: Ultralearning isn’t just a language book–it’s one of the only books on the market that talks about the practical and applicable art of teaching yourself anything. One of the many things the author talks about is how to apply scientific learning strategies to learning 4 languages in a year, and it was one of the best books I’ve ever read on language learning.
Is the language learner in your life a bookworm? Check out this list of amazing linguistics books they’ll love.
Why I love it: If your language learner is taking online classes or living with roommates, noise-canceling headphones with a built-in mic are going to solve a few of their major study problems. Low-end headphones can go a low as $35 per pair, but for a name brand like Sony or Bose tend to run $200-350 per pair.
Why I love it: Does your language learner love taking beautiful notes? In online language learning communities, sharing photos of notes is increasingly popular. Let them practice their handwriting in a fun and creative way so studying becomes not only productive but fun!
Why I love it: If someone is studying a language with a foreign script (think: Russian, Greek, Arabic, etc) they’re going to need a new skin for their keyboard so when they install new hardware on their computer they can see what letters they’re typing. Unfortunately, keyboard skins wear out quickly. (In the link you can find Russian, Thai, and Korean, but if you serarch “[language] keyboard skin” you’ll find what you need in any language easily.)
Why I love it: 2020 has been a rough year for everyone. If you’re looking for gifts for language lovers who are bummed down because they can’t travel, cheer them up with these cute little mini lighters. (Look at them! How cute are they!?)
BONUS GIFT IDEA: Study Snacks
Why I love it: If you want to make a gift box, I suggest filling it with some good snacks, tea, K-cups, whatever. I added a sprinkling to my mom’s gift box as a cute touch and she loved it. Just open the bags the snacks come in and use them as box filler. (I used Lindt chocolates and Nespresso cups for my gift box filling.)
6 premium gifts for language learners
These premium gifts for language lovers are higher priced, but I’ve personally used and tested every one of them.
They’re worth the money.
So if you’re looking for that big show-stopper how-did-you-know present, check out these gift ideas.
1. Lifetime subscription to uTalk
Why I love it: You’ve probably heard of DuoLingo or Rosetta Stone. The problem with most apps is that not only do they have very few languages on them, but that they don’t work.
On the flip side, uTalk hosts over 150 languages and uses really really good learning science. (As a polyglot, this is the only app that I personally swear by!) A lifetime subscription will give your language learner access to all of them indefinitely.
(If you want to know more about this app, check out my unsponsored video here.)
2. Gift cards to iTalki 🙋🏻♀️
Why I love it: iTalki is the largest directory of online language teachers on the internet. If the language lover in your life is already taking online classes, odds are they’re taking them through iTalki.
Generally, hiring a language tutor is $10-20/hr and hiring a professional teacher is $15-35/hr (depending on the language). My recommendation is that you do at least a $50 gift card so you can pay for several lessons unless you know that your language learner is already using the platform.
Why I love it: For a language student, Kindles are a great investment. First of all, their textbooks and workbooks going forward will likely be much cheaper. Second, they’ll have access to books from foreign countries that they couldn’t have shipped over in snail mail.
But third, Kindle also has several built-in bilingual dictionaries. Language lovers can read novels much more easily when they can find a translation in one-click.
As for which edition you should buy, I like my basic Paperwhite a ton. (That version costs $129 at the time of writing this article.) Anything more expensive seems like a lot of bells and whistles that I’m not sure are necessary for language learning.
4. Language coaching
Why I love it: When I was first getting serious about language learning, I had plenty of problems I couldn’t solve myself. I needed a language mentor–someone to guide me and help me navigate the long road ahead.
Ask the language lover in your life if they have a favorite language podcast or YouTuber.
If they listen to the Fluent Show, check out Language Coaching with Kerstin Cable. I worked with Kerstin for 6 sessions, and it helped me with a ton of my problems.
There are also a few dozen others, which you can find via quick Google search. (I just won’t link to them here since I don’t know them personally.)
5. Langauge Clubs or Subscription Services
Price: $10-$35 per month
Why I love it: Most language learners have a favorite YouTube channel or podcaster. Many of those channels or podcasters have private subscription services that offer paid users monthly bonuses for really low prices.
Need to figure out which one to get your language learner? Here’s the text to send them:
Hey – someone from work is starting to learn <language>. Do you have any podcasts or YouTubers you recommend for them? Anything about <language> or language learning.
When they reply, check the episode or video notes and see if there’s a Patreon link, website link, or any information about a “club” or subscription.
If you see that info and aren’t sure if your language learner already has it, you can follow up with:
We were just looking at it and it says there’s a subscription. You don’t need the subscription to use the < podcast / youtube > right? Do you have a subscription?
This way you can find out whether or not they have it, and what their feelings about it might be!
Buy them a 6- or 12-month subscription for a real treat.
If you want some examples of what I’m talking about (as well as some subscription services I know are worth the money), here are a few ideas.
- Language League, an activity club by Kerstin Cable (of The Fluent Show) and Lindsay Williams (of Lindsay Does Languages)
- Lingthusiam Patreon, where listeners of the popular podcast can get access to Patreon-exclusive episodes as well as a linguistics chat group
- Polski Daily, by Polski Daily Podcast, gives listeners transcripts to every episode plus over 1000 grammar worksheets
Why I love it: The Language Habit Toolkit is an online course that functions as a language learning planner. As you move through the course, the user will learn not only about the powerful habits of successful language learners, but will get actionable steps and printable resources that will help them become better language learners themselves.
3 language gifts to avoid
Here are a few gifts I truly do not recommend getting any language learner, even if you’re tempted.
🛑 1. Rosetta Stone 🛑
Why this gift will fall flat: Rosetta Stone was the 90’s go-to language software. But if you’ve ever met someone who tried using it, they likely have a number of reasons why they never got anywhere with it.
Rosetta Stone’s technology was groundbreaking at the time, but ultimately it coupled limited vocabulary with bad teaching pedagogy. It’s still a household name, but no language learners actually use it.
🛑 2. Corny T-Shirts or Hoodies 🛑
Why this gift will fall flat: Cheap t-shirt companies pop up everywhere online in time for the holidays. They are run by robots who comb hashtags on Instagram, Tumblr, or Facebook and automatically repost random popular images onto shirts, using the same hashtags to help shoppers (like you) find them.
The problem with this is that there is no quality oversite. Jokes or memes might be offensive to those who don’t speak a certain language. Grammar charts or linguistics jokes might be printed incorrectly. The material is often very cheap and made in sweatshops.
So skip cheap apparel this year.
🛑 3. Textbooks 🛑
Why this gift will fall flat: Not only do you not know the language level of another person, but you don’t know their learning style. Unless they specifically ask for a certain textbook, this present isn’t going to win anyone’s heart.
Do you have any questions about potential gifts for language lovers? Or any ideas that you think belong on this list? Feel free to leave any idea in the comments to be added to a future edition of this list, or to get feedback from me!