• At a certain age, we get discouraged by science, claiming that younger people learn easier and faster. They also act cooler and look superior to us. We’ve been conditioned to believe that youth is the time for studying and any other activity involving memory, focus and acquiring new skills.

    But how about life experience? How about knowledge you can’t quite master as a child? Yes, kids learn easily, but they have no understanding of abstract or complex concepts. If I remember well, there are even different neurological centers in our brain involved in adult learning – totally different than the ones a child uses to learn a mother tongue! So, the argument becomes a comparison between apples and oranges.

    I’ll be honest: I personally prefer working with adults. What they have as an advantage over children is their motivation. Ask a child, and you’ll probably find the parents as the driving force behind the language education; ask an adult, and you’ll hear beautiful reasons:
    • ambition to do better at work (or get that promotion!)
    • regrets about not doing it earlier
    • dreams of traveling
    • desire to communicate better with friends, family members (in-laws), strangers, colleagues
    • entertainment – watching a movie in the original, reading a famous book or a story, understanding the lyrics of a song…

  • No matter what the reason, a new language enriches you. I’ve felt bad for NOT speaking a language – but not once in my life have I regretted speaking four. I don’t use them all, but they’re nestled in there, making sure my brain keeps the muscles in shape.
  • If you speak more than one language, you know that one facilitates learning another: you make parallels, use the vocabulary with slight adjustments (sometimes it’s only the pronunciation), build your sentences by similarity… Multiple studies prove that a bilingual – or multilingual – brain is healthier and functions better, because switching from one language to another is gymnastics for the brain cells. Or, as I like to say, only half-kidding, it’s not Alzheimer’s that is going to get me – it’s probably going to be the chocolate cake!
    There are many factors to consider when learning  and teaching – age specifics are important! Just as well as an early-childhood educator will choose more visual aids – pictures, games, videos and flash cards – a teacher with an adult student can use all of these, plus favorite songs, crossword puzzles, and most importantly, topics that the students are interested in. Nothing makes it stick like interest and excitement!

    Here are some ways to go around age-related slowdowns:

    • Use your experience with previous learning: how did you organize yourself in college?
    • Now you have more time to yourself: repeat, listen to that song again, watch that talk show you never found the time for when your kids were young!
    • Make your mistakes, then catch them and correct them: it will become second nature with practice.
    • Find a pen pal or a key pal: chat with strangers online or in real life, now that you know how to be safe!
  • * According to The Language Journal, “Cleopatra, The Queen of the Nile and Ancient Egypt, knew Aramaic, Ethiopic, Hebrew and Latin on top of Greek and Coptic/Egyptian. She was also believed to have spoken Syriac, Median, Parthian and Trogodyte and actually used her facility for languages to her advantage.”
  • * Pope Benedict speaks German, French, English, Italian, Spanish, and
      ecclesiastical Latin. He also knows Portuguese, biblical Hebrew and Ancient 
  • * Actress Penelope Cruz speaks Spanish, French, Italian, and English; Natalie Portman – Hebrew, some French, German, Japanese and Spanish.
  • * Mother Teresa spoke Albanian, Serbo-Croat, Bengali, and Hindi.