What Is The Best Age To Learn a Second Language?
Have you ever regretted not learning French when you were still a kid? Love the musicality of Italian but think it’s too late to learn the language? Learning a new language is usually seen as being easier for children than for adults. But is this really true? What is the best age to learn a second language?
Is There a Critical Age To Learn a Second Language?
According to a recent study led by British and Dutch researchers, there is no specific ‘critical age’. Instead, the easiness with which one can learn a language depends on his/her environment.
Children are known for ‘soaking up like a sponge’ any new language they learn. There are many reasons that explain this. With highly active brains and more time to learn than adults, children absorb new knowledge quicker. They will learn even more quickly if they are exposed directly to the language, whether they regularly hear it spoken at home or at school. And because they are not culture-bound yet, they can easily overcome the grammar and pronunciation of their own mother tongue.
It’s Never Too Late To Learn
Ever heard someone saying they were ‘too old’ to learn a new language? If you think you have passed the critical age for learning new languages, you are less likely to give it a try. But as we have seen, the idea of a ‘critical age’ is a preconception rather than a proven fact. And adults have some strong advantages children usually don’t have.
For most children, learning a language is a decision made by their parents. Adults, on the other hand, have their own motivations for learning a new language. Because they choose to learn that language, they are more enthusiastic about it. And by being more self-disciplined, an adult is willing to dedicate time for self-study. Unlike babies, adults already know at least one language. Some of the vocabulary, sounds, and grammar concepts may also exist in the new language they learn. So while children are learning from scratch, adults already have a base on which they can work on. As a result, they can progress through the early stages faster.
Looking at how children learn can also help adults. Younger children are less afraid of making mistakes and have a trial-and-error approach. For adults, the idea of communicating in a new language is often uncomfortable. But making mistakes is part of any learning process. And going out of your comfort zone can actually be very rewarding. How would you meet your soulmate if you did not dare to make the first step?
Being immersed in the language can also lead to substantial progress. Going to the country where the language is spoken is a great way to do so. Meeting up with other language learners or native speakers also helps practicing the language outside the classroom.
Learning Languages Helps Keeping You Healthy
Besides the obvious advantages that learning a language brings, such as improved career prospects or better communication skills, there are real benefits for your mental health. Learning and using a second language is known for improving memory skills. Several studies have shown that speaking a second language can delay dementia by 5 years.
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Age is only one factor. Learning a new language can also be more or less easy, depending on the proximity between the first and the second language, whether you already know a second language or not… and of course the quality of your language learning. At Cactus Language Training, we analyse your needs and requirements prior to the start of your course to ensure we allocate the trainer that best matches your learning style.
Are you looking to develop your language skills or of your team members? Are you looking to determine the number of hours needed to reach proficiency? Cactus Guide to International Success – Levels and Progress Made Simple gives you the information you need to ensure your language training objectives are met. Download our free Guide to International Success.
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