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Learning a new language: When is it too late?

Learning a new language: When is it too late?

The world we live in is becoming more and more cosmopolitan. We travel frequently, we cross the world in a few hours, we meet people from other countries and cultures, etc. Undoubtedly, this evolution drives us to learn new languages either to travel, to interact with other people or for professional reasons.

But when it comes to studying a language, maybe there is something that doesn't seem fair. Why a child can come back from holidays in another country mastering the language perfectly while you struggle for years to learn a new language? Well, nature is well made so that children are built for language learning. The older you get, the more difficult it will be. But it doesn't mean there is an exact age to give up learning a language. If you feel motivated, go for it. Or at least, try it.

Of course, it is always recommended to start learning a language at a younger age if you want to reach a total fluency and speak without any accent. However, many people who begin to learn a language later in adulthood are able to achieve a very good level of fluency.

A study on English learners revealed that learners who mastered better the language had started learning English before the age of 18. However, some older participants had achieved a nearly fluency level. In other words, the ability to gain fluency declines as you age, but is not impossible to achieve.

Fluency: what does it mean exactly?

If speaking fluently means being able to speak like a native speaker, then the rate of success seems to be low at adulthood. However, if it means able to have a conversation about any topic of daily life at a very high level, then adults have more possibilities to gain fluency.

Why is it easier for children?

Children are better at learning languages because they have a younger brain but also because they have less restrictions than adults. Indeed, adults have a busy life with plenty of things to do. While children have lots of time to be totally immersed by a language and they feel more motivated to study a language out of necessity (can open up new possibilities for their future).

Even if children are able to learn a language easier, it will take them a few years to go from literary translation (more complexity). On the other hand, adults will take less time to acquire it due to their language competency.

Seniors who want to learn a new language can find solutions to put all the possibilities on their side. They can discover how to be surrounded by a language and motivated to use it. Learning a language doesn't come easily, but it's not age alone that makes it hard.

Nowadays, there are new tools to study a language in an interactive and entertaining way with applications, such as, Babel or Duolingo. In addition, both have a free trial.

And you, are you learning a new language? which one? Do you find it difficult? Do you have any advice for all the future learners?