Every Friday, We’ll Be Answering Your Questions About Language Learning, Entrepreneurship, Productivity And More.
Today’s Question Is: Am I Too Old To Learn Another Language?
There’s a never ending list of excuses that prevent us from learning a language.
But being “too old” makes the top of the list every time.
Maybe you’ve tried learning another language in the past without much success, or you heard how difficult it is from a friend and you never tried in the first place.
We’ve got exciting news for you that dispels these “old” myths, and why you should learn another language today.
Let’s start with…
1. Adults Learn Just As Fast (If Not Faster) Than Children
All throughout the media, we’re told that once we “grow” up, our learning ability starts to diminish. These studies are not only decades out of date, but there’s recent studies that show adults can learn a language faster.
One study by Hakuta, Bialystok and Wiley compared the language learning abilities in adults of different ages. Each participant was taught the same words in the same learning environment. The results showed that people over 50 learn just as well as people in their 20’s or 30’s.
Another study was done in 2010, which investigated plasticity of the white matter tracts that connect the left and right hemisphere of the frontal lobes. The scientists tested two groups of adults, one group between the ages of 21 and 30, and the other between 65 and 80. The results did not show any significant age-related differences in terms of memory or speed.
Sure, there are certain components like pronunciation that comes easier to children, but when it comes to grammar, vocabulary, and syntax, adults have shown to pick up the knowledge faster. This can also be explained by the fact that adults already have a base of vocabulary that they are working with to transfer into the new language.
2. You Already Know A Language
This brings us to our second point.
If you’re an adult, you already know English (or another language that you grew up with).
This means that while children are still learning the mechanics of their own first language, adults have a more developed understanding of how language learning works. Adults already know the more advanced elements of grammar, such as how conjugation works, or what an adverb does.
Instead of starting from scratch, you’re working with a base of knowledge, which is especially useful if you’re learning a language from a similar family root, like learning how to speak Spanish to French or Mandarin to Korean.
3. You Know How You Best Learn
If you’ve been through any formal education (i.e. highschool, college, masters), then you’ve had more experience than any child on understanding how you best learn. To clarify this point, some of us learn better through listening while others need something explained to them in-person or through visual diagrams.
A study done on how younger and older adults select valuable information to study, the scientists showed each age group words with values attached, ranging from low to high. Participants were allowed to choose which values to study and decide how much time they wanted to spend on each. The results showed that “older adults allocated a disproportionately greater amount of study time to the higher-value words, and age-differences in recall were reduced or eliminated for the highest value words
While children are at the mercy of the environment around them to learn a language, you have the flexibility and option to choose how you best learn. If you’ve learned a previous skill through videos, then you can watch Youtube or other online videos online to learn another language. If you’re the type of person that wants accountability, support, and live coaching, then you can work with a private tutor locally on Craigslist or connect with a teacher online.
4. It’s About Motivation And Persistency
Like just about anything you want to learn, the problem is rarely lack of innate talent. It’s motivation and persistency.
As an adult, we can choose what we decide to learn and select only the things we’re passionate about, whereas children are forced to sit in a classroom to learn.
And the first thing you have to do is get rid of the mindset that age is what’s stopping you from learning another language.
Once you can see language learning as a passion, you’ll not only be more motivated to continue learning, but you’ll be much more patient, which is even more important for an adult learner.
“Everyone has their own advantages they can bring to the table. But saying clear cut that children and infants are simply universally better, end-of-discussion, ignores a mountain of information. Stop making excuses, find out your own strengths and get learning and get speaking.”
-Benny Lewis, Founder of Fluentin3months.com
5. You’re Probably Using The Wrong Method
As we shared in our post: How to remember 90% of everything you learn, it turns out that humans remember:
5% of what they learn when they’ve learned from a lecture (i.e. university/college lectures)
10% of what they learn when they’ve learned from reading (i.e. books, articles)
20% of what they learn from audio-visual (i.e. apps, videos)
30% of what they learn when they see a demonstration
50% of what they learn when engaged in a group discussion.
75% of what they learn when they practice what they learned.
90% of what they learn when they use immediately (or teach others)
Given this research, it’s worth reflecting back on how we’ve learned another language in the past (if you’ve tried already).
Most of us still rely on apps like Duolingo (20% retention), books (10% retention) or language classrooms (5% retention). But if we think about how we learned our first language, we didn’t rely on these mobile apps to get there. We learned it by speaking with our parents, siblings, and our friends through real-life immersion, which helps us retain 90% of information in the brain.
The unfortunate part about all this is that most people resort back to lack of innate talent or being “too old” when they don’t see any results in the first month, after using the wrong method to learn.
Languages are meant to be learned and spoken with other humans, and it’s the best way to learn another language.
Your Turn: Ask Rype Anything
We’d love for this new weekly segment to be successful, and provide a valuable repository of answers from our entire community for language learners, professionals, and entrepreneurs everywhere.
To do that, we need your help.
Here’s what you can do to get involved:
- Ask questions. Post them in the comments of this post, or Tweet them to us at @rype_app
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