As adults, who learn English as the second language, is there ever a time when we are too old or is learning a second language possible forever?
Firstly, we must look at the motivation someone has, to learn English. There are two types of motivation, intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic learners are learning for pleasure or because they are excited about the language, love learning and expanding their horizons and minds. They do it to feel good and they are normally highly motivated. Extrinsic learners are learning because they need a title, have some sort of pressure from outside, jobwise or family pressure. They are learning to reach a goal. They are more difficult to motivate and tend to get tired of learning more easily. To battle with this, the extrinsic learner needs to be reminded of their initial desire to learn and why. Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation are also part of a spectrum. Many times, we have a combination of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.
Adult students that are intrinsically motivated can learn at any age. In fact, language learning has been proven to delay dementia and help our brains stay plastic for longer. Children, when learning a language, use the motor skills part of their brain. Adults, differently, use the higher cognitive parts that we develop as teenagers. This means that children will be able to repeat sounds and their pronunciation will be closer to a native accent, whereas adults are going to find it very difficult to achieve this type of native pronunciation. However, having an accent shouldn’t stop you from learning English.
In parts of language learning such as grammar and vocabulary, the adult student will be able to apply their general knowledge about language structure and processes, such as syntax, verb tenses etc. that they have learnt while using the native language. This gives young adult and adult learners a very big advantage. This means that as adult learners, we will be able to progress, more rapidly and more profoundly, into the new language really understanding how to use it.
Language learning is all about connecting and getting closer to the people around us. We can do this at any age. So, the age-old excuse of not learning because you are too old is not true.
Motivate yourself for your love of learning and your passion to find out more. Give your brain a chance to do some gymnastics. See the advantage you have as an adult learner and use your knowledge of your first language. Look for your intrinsic motivation. With these three ideas in mind, you will learn faster, better and you might even have fun while you are at it!
Don’t wait a second more. It’s never too late to start!