It seems that the old adage ‘You can’t teach an old dog new tricks’ definitely doesn’t apply to language learning. Recent studies show not only just how beneficial language learning is for the brain but that in some ways older students have an advantage over younger students. Great news indeed for those of us who are 40+ and looking to embark on learning a new language!
Research has shown that older students out perform their younger counterparts in areas such as vocabulary acquisition, better study skills, literacy skills and mnemonic devices. In general older adults have a larger vocabulary in their own language. They use this knowledge to map the newly acquired vocabulary to. However older students are more likely to struggle with pronunciation and the grammar and syntax of the target language.
Learning a language also helps to keep our brain fit. We know from current research that our brains change in response to new experiences and adapt accordingly. Thus acquiring new language skills actually develops new neural pathways in the brain adding increased flexibility. We are in essence giving our brain a good ‘work-out’.
It is true that it is more difficult to learn a language as we get older. However some researchers argue that we gain more if we learn at an older age. Thomas Bak was a researcher on a large project carried out by Edinburgh University.
“Learning a language later on in life might be more beneficial than learning it earlier, because it takes more effort. It has parallels with physical exercise. A stroll is good for your health, but not as beneficial as a run,” claims Bak.
It seems that there are so many good reasons to take up a new language. Why not check out our many language courses on the LSI website.
Interested in learning more about what factors influence our language learning? Check out our blog on how females learn languages better than their male peers.