We generally tend to think that as we get older our ability to learn a new language decreases. However, to date there is no 100% clear conclusion, as over the years there has been different evidence for and against.
Natalia Casal, Learning Specialist at ABA English, an Edtech startup specializing in teaching English online, ensures that age doesn’t diminish our ability to learn, but instead makes us learn in another way. which directly impacts the results.
In 1979, the Age, Rate and Eventual Attainment in Second Language Acquisition study by Krashen, Long and Scarcell analyzed 23 studies on the impact of age on second language learning, highlighting two angles from which to tackle this problem: learning speed and final objective.
“Unlike children, adults are fully aware that we are learning a second language and in this process other factors interfere, such as motivation, time or possible past experiences, among others,” says Casal. “Another element that becomes particularly important in adulthood is the methodology we use to learn or the teacher that we have. All of these factors have an impact that we cannot ignore in the learning process, ”he adds.
Motivation and methodology, factors of success in language learning
Unless there is some sort of language pathology, everyone can learn a second language by being consistent and using a methodology tailored to their needs and interests.
In this sense, Natalia Casal, learning specialist at ABA English, also shares three basic rules to keep in mind when starting to learn a second language like English:
Lose your fear when it comes to learning English
Casal says that “as you get older, what increases is the fear of making mistakes or making a fool of yourself for using a new language”.
Traditionally, students attend master classes in which the active use of the language is almost anecdotal, so it is necessary to increase the practice as much as possible.
“If we tried to learn to ride a bike from a book, it would be impossible. You have to climb and fall in it sometimes to learn, no matter how old you are. Well, with learning a new language the same thing happens ”.
Look for more effective methods that encourage listening and speaking
Believing that our age is going to limit us when it comes to learning a new language is precisely one of the great obstacles that students face, leading many not to even take the step to try it.
For this reason, Natalia Casal assures us that it is important not to fall into this error and to trust ourselves, as well as to seek a methodology that suits us: “what costs the most in adulthood, what does not is not so much grammar as pronunciation. In the case of English, this is particularly sensitive because it is a language that does not sound exactly as it is written ”.
In this way, Casal encourages students to “shy away from traditional learning methods based solely on grammar and seek more effective methods, in which listening and speaking come first”.
Include English in our daily routines
Finally, one of the tips that Casal recommends is not to change our daily activities, but to gradually integrate English into them.
“Practice is always the key. If we start from the activities that we love to do and incorporate English into them, we will have a lot of cattle. For example, watching films in their original version, looking for a bar with English speaking waiters, going to language exchanges for a drink or giving cooking lessons with native speakers ”.