Am I too old to learn a new language?
While Speakly has many inspiring 70-, 80-, and even 90-year-old learners who develop their language skills, you can't imagine how often we come across somebody in their 40ssaying the infamous words, "I'm too old to learn a new language!" Adding, "My brain just doesn't save new information anymore—I'm too old.” But in reality, research tells us that even people of a more mature age are capable of learning new languages. The differences between younger and older learners actually aren’t that big. 😉
So, let's dive into this topic to help you convince your older family members to embark on the journey of language learning they have always dreamed about!
The reality of learning something new at an older age
While children learn things more quickly than adults, research shows that learning something new—like a new language—doesn't necessarily become more efficient just because of that. ☝️
While adult brains’ neuroplasticity, which shows how well the brain acquires new information, is lower than that of children, adults show better learning, time-management, and rationalization skills, resulting in more efficient learning.
It all evens out in the end: As an adult, you have skills to motivate yourself and can find and fix your mistakes, structure new knowledge, and approach learning in a meaningful way.
This is even more true if you're using language-learning applications like Speakly, which make up for any lack of brain plasticity by teaching you a language more efficiently. 🚀
Considering all this, research suggests that if you take it seriously and focus on learning something new, it may even be more efficient as an adult.
The reality of a busy life
We all have busy lives, and research clearly shows that when adults state that they are too old to learn something new, they’re implying at least one of the following.
“I don't need these new skills to survive, and I can more or less do without them.”
“I have a lot to do, and learning something new is not a priority for me.”
“As an adult, society doesn't require me to continue my development; I therefore choose not to.”
In almost all such cases, the feeling of not being able to learn stems from complacency and a lack of motivation to learn a new skill.
What does it mean to "learn" a new language?
Additionally, in our society, the notion that "it takes years to learn a language" is so normalized that it's often the reason why many people don't start learning a language in the first place. ☝️
Indeed, it’s logical. If you feel that the goal is too far out, it's easy to avoid taking the first steps. From behind the starting line, reaching the finish line seems next to impossible.
Unfortunately, this is something that has been programmed into us by school programs, which, without intending harm, systematically causes people to fear learning new languages. This is mainly created by a grading approach that focuses on mistakes instead of achievements. To read more about this, check out this blog post.
But the reality is that we need to rethink “learning a new language.” For over six years, our research has clearly shown that people can manage the majority of real-life conversations by knowing just 1,200 of the foreign language’s most common words. 😉
Now, if we assume that you'd learn ten new words every single day (which takes twenty to thirty minutes with Speakly), then you will learn 1,200 words in just four months. To read more about how Speakly’s methodology teaches you a language this quickly, check out this blog post.
If you imagine yourself having conversations in a foreign language in just four months, then this task that first seemed impossible suddenly becomes attainable. 🚀
Three reasons why every adult should learn a new language
Now that you know that learning a new language as an adult is not in any way less efficient, let's look at some additional reasons why it's immensely beneficial to start a language-learning journey as soon as possible.
Reason 1: Learning languages is good for brain health
A massive body of research (e.g., here) suggests that speaking several languages has positive cognitive effects that even offset the possibility of suffering from such degenerative diseases as dementia and Alzheimer’s.
This makes total sense: Learning a new language is like getting your brain to the gym. You're improving concentration, memory, and overall intelligence. There's even research that shows that people who speak several languages make more thoughtful decisions that are not solely based on emotions but rational thinking.
Reason 2: New languages open up new worlds
A language is nothing but a vehicle to discover the world around us. As a polyglot who speaks and understands seven languages, I've felt—on numerous occasions—that my language skills have been the key to really discovering the French, German, Spanish, Italian, and other cultures around me.
The world becomes more diverse, more wonderful, by being able to plunge into another culture and open the hearts of its people, even with immature language skills—saying thank you or exchanging a few words with a passerby. 😉
Reason 3: Learning a new language will grant you more self-confidence and self-love
Many people have complicated relationships with themselves. Perhaps it’s low self-esteem, low self-confidence, or any number of other afflictions.
A new language is a wonderful opportunity to fall in love with yourself as a person again—broadening your horizons and seeing that, no matter your age, you can develop yourself and find new and interesting nooks and crannies of your vast inner world.