There is a common misconception that the older you get, the harder it is to learn a new language. Whilst the idea of enrolling on a language course may raise concerns such as “Will I be able to remember my muy from my mucho?“, it is often fear rather than age, which stops people learning a new language as an adult. In fact, a mature student may already be equipped with many skills which a younger counterpart may not have.
For starters, as an adult you have already learned how to learn. You know what works for you, and how to use particular strategies for learning. Another benefit that youmay have over your younger counterparts is the amount of time you can devote to studying. In particular, if retirement age is approaching and the children have flown the nest, it may now be possible to enrol in longer courses rather than squeezing in one evening course per week.
As well as these existingadvantages over younger students, becoming bilingual can also bring many new enriching benefits to your life:
Learning a new language is like giving your brain a gym work-out. It can literally grow your brain, as seen in the study conducted by Lund University which monitored language students at the Swedish Armed Forces Interpreter Academy. Over 3 months, MRI scans of the students revealed that specific sections of their brain responsible for developing new knowledge and consolidating short-term memory into long-term memory had grown in size.
As well as pumping out those brain muscles, learning a new language could delay the onset of dementia. The Alzheimer’s Association states that today there are over 5 million Americans living with this untreatable disease. Yet, learning a second language can slow the brain’s ageing. Research carried out by the Indian Department of Science and Technology found that, on average, signs of dementiaappeared 4 and a half years later in bilinguals as compared to those who spoke only one language.
It is clear that the mental benefits of learning a new language are vast. But what about the social side of it? Signing up for a course or joining an online community opens the door to meeting new people and making new friendships. Sharing the same passion for a language and culture is the perfect starting point for a conversation!
So the next time you hear someone saying learning a new language is more difficult with age, it is worth remembering that individuals over the age of 50 are responsible for great achievements: Sony chairman Akio Morita introduced the Sony Walkman, aged 58, J.R.R. Tolkien published the first volume of “Lord of the Rings“ aged 62 and John Glenn became the oldest person to go into space, aged 77. If you are a mature budding linguist, you should embrace taking up a new language. After all, it is never too late to try something new.