Illustrations by Emily Blevins
What’s more romantic than expressing your love? Conveying those feelings in your special someone’s native tongue.
It’s commonly said that “love is the universal language,” a form of communication understood by all. This is true: Most humans are capable of—if not wired for—meaningful emotional connection and deep affection toward others. Still, there are many ways to express love, the most basic of which begins with saying the words.
For those interested in expanding their romantic repertoires and finding love in all corners of the world (without having to rely on the assistance of a translation app), here’s how to say “I love you” in different languages from German to Portuguese to Swahili.
French is often considered the language of love and romance. If you find a special someone while in France (or any of the 28 other countries where French is spoken), the elegant phrase je t’aime will help you communicate your heart’s desire. (Learn how to pronounce it here.)
Spanish is the official language in 20 countries around the world, which means your chances of falling for someone who speaks it are pretty high. When you want to express your love toward that important person in your life, te amo will do the trick. (Learn how to pronounce it here.)
Learning how to speak German is not exactly easy; the language contains famously long and complicated words, plus every noun can be one of three genders (masculine, feminine, and neutral). Thankfully, saying “I love you” is somewhat simple—just utter the words ich liebe dich. (Learn how to pronounce it here.)
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As are all languages derived from Latin, Italian is considered a Romance language. There are many different regional dialects spoken across Italy, but no matter where you are, the phrase ti amo sends a clear message of adoration. (Learn how to pronounce it here.)
In Japanese culture, love is sometimes more commonly displayed through gestures than through words. However, if you want to express your affection verbally, you’d be best suited saying aishiteru. When speaking to a man, end the phrase with yo, and when speaking with a woman, end the utterance with wa. (Learn how to pronounce it here.)
Arabic is one of the world’s oldest spoken languages, so it comes as no surprise that various expressions of fondness have found permanent places in the lexicon over time. Multiple words express love in Arabic, but ana bahibak (directed toward a male) and ana bahibik (directed toward a female) are solid phrases to start with. (Learn how to pronounce it here.)
Another Romance language derived from Latin, Portuguese is spoken around the world from Portugal, to Brazil, to Mozambique, and beyond. While the specific dialects in these countries vary slightly, the phrase eu te amo is universal. (Learn how to pronounce it here.)
Even though Mandarin is considered the standard form of Chinese, it’s actually one of many dialects spoken in China. Still, there are more Mandarin speakers in the world than any other language—which means that learning the phrase wǒ ài nǐ, used to communicate love, might not be a bad idea. (Learn how to pronounce it here.)
Swahili is the official language of Tanzania and Kenya (next to English) and is widely spoken in many other parts of Africa. It’s commonly regarded as one of the easiest African languages for English speakers to learn because words—such as nakupenda, which translates to “I love you”—are pronounced the same way they’re written. (Learn how to pronounce it here.)
Greek is the world’s oldest recorded living language, with written records spanning back more than 30 centuries. To exhibit the most classic of romantic gestures, say s’agapó to someone you cherish. (Learn how to pronounce it here.)
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