Today more than half of the world’s population can speak at least two languages. Many research studies show that knowing two or more languages is beneficial at any age, but a lot of people have the same question – how old is too old when learning a second language?
Many experts believe that learning a second language should begin at the earliest stage possible, as babies. This is so because babies start off with an empty brain and as time goes by, they develop the necessary skills in order to communicate.
As babies grow, they become expressive of their thoughts and feelings through the acquired language or languages that surround them. If they practice talking in several languages, they will more likely retain this ability later on in life. They will be able to speak correctly and fluently as any native speaker.
As for adults, they have already acquired a vocabulary that they use to express themselves. The use of complex words and word combinations to express oneself makes it a daunting task of translating from a native language to another language. This is one of the main challenges an adult faces when they are learning a second language.
But just because something may appear difficult doesn’t mean it’s necessarily going to be impossible to do even at a certain age. When it comes to learning another language there are a few strengths that adults have that young people do not have.
- A Broad Vocabulary
The fact that you are fluent in your mother tongue should be sufficient proof that you possess the intelligence to pick up a second language. You might think that having a broad vocabulary in your native language would hinder you, but that is not the case. Native language skills can influence second language acquisition.
Being fluent means that your vocabulary is very broad and understanding vocabulary plays a key role when you are learning a second language as an adult. When you have a broad vocabulary of one language, this helps you to pick up on another language much easier by allowing you to have the same range of vocabulary knowledge in a second language.
However, it is still challenging especially in the grasping of accents and pronunciations.
- Past Success
As an adult, you have faced many challenges before. Therefore, you also know that the best things in life don’t come easy. Learning a second language will be challenging but it is not impossible. It just takes commitment to the process rather than giving up. Using past success to conquer current challenges is the way to go as an adult.
A perk of being an adult learner is that you have a better understanding of your personal strengths, weaknesses and learning styles. If you are aware of these things then learning a second language becomes easier you are able to tailor your studies to meet your needs.
So even if language learning does prove to be more difficult at an older age, I hope these strengths will give you a new outlook about learning a new language while being an adult. All adults are capable of learning a second language. To achieve this objective you just need to use an approach that is tailored to meet your needs.
Need help in figuring out how to tailor your studies of learning a second language to meet your needs? Check out our website for more details.
Until next time, learnwithscience.
- Ghasemi, B., & Hashemi, M. (2011) Foreign language learning during childhood. Social and Behavioral Sciences. 28. 872-876.
- Khan, Muhammad. (2016). The Impact of Native Language Use on Second Language Vocabulary Learning by Saudi EFL Students. English Language Teaching. 9. 134-140.