The Biggest Language Learning Myth, Debunked

Many people who would like to learn another language get discouraged before they could even start. Most of the time this discouragement is based on some myths that are circulating about language learning. Let me tell you: these myths are not true at all. They are not based on a scientific fact, and are most likely self-fulfilling prophecies.

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The most common thing I hear when someone tries to explain why they don’t start to learn a new language is that they’re too old, and it’s impossible to learn a language after a certain age. This concept is nothing more than an excuse. If you convince yourself you’re too old, you will never try so you will definitely fail. The only scientific base for this statement might be a theory from the beginning of the 20th century about a critical development period during which the brain could more easily acquire language skills, but this has fallen out of favour with psychologists and also language specialists. If you look around you can see 50-60 years old people successfully picking up new languages! These labels don’t do much, just limit people.

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It is beneficial to start learning a new language at an early age, because when somebody is exposed to a language while young it’s easier to obtain an authentic accent.  The truth is: everything depends on the right materials and right amount of input. If you put children and adults in the same environment and will provide them with the same material, you will definitely fail, as children and adults learn differently.  They say kids soak up knowledge like a sponge, but adults have some benefits as well.

Let me point out the advantages that adults have when learning a new language:

 1. There might be common words in your mother language and the language you’d like to learn: check them out, you will be surprised by the lots of similarities, and you’ll build up a small vocabulary in no time. You can also connect words in your mind with ideas and concepts you already know, so you don’t have to start from scratch.

2.  Kids might obtain the accent in a less difficult way, but it’s easier for an older student to grasp the cultural significance and understand the grammar.

3. Adults have more materials: meetups, radio podcasts, apps, series, and language exchange partners just to mention a few examples.

4.  Adults are also better at planning, analysing, organising, and they can consciously focus on what they want to learn. These skills all come in handy when learning a second language.

So it’s time to benefit from the fact that you’re an adult language learner and start believing in yourself. The best time to start learning a new language is… NOW!


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