Even in old age, you can still learn a new language.
But you have to let go of certain prejudices that exist about older language learners.
These prejudices are holding you back from even giving it a go.
When readers ask me for specific tips for older learners, I always share my two rules for older language learners with them.
These rules aren’t tactical. They’ve got more to do with the mindset of older learners.
Here they are:
Rule #1: Don’t Accept the Stereotype that You’re Not as Good a Learner as Young People
This is the first and most important rule.
You must never believe you’re not as capable as younger learners, without actual evidence supporting that notion.
Because if you do, this belief quickly becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that will significantly impede your progress.
Yes, young folks have certain advantages. But so do you!
When you’re older, you can draw upon many life experiences, and you may have done a lot of studying in your time.
In other words, you can better direct your language learning.
This is a huge advantage.
Also, you may have more free time on your hands than when you were younger. Couple that with the possibility that you’re now a more patient person and you have another massive plus.
And what about motivation?
Many young people might not have the motivation to learn a new language. Outside forces might “oblige” them to learn one.
If you—as an elder— decide to learn a new language, it’s completely your decision.
But maybe most important…
How Do You Know Your Brain is in a Worse State than those of Young People?
Organs age differently. Your liver at 65 might be in a better state than mine at 36.
The heart of some 25-year old could be worse off than one of a 75-year old.
So why shouldn’t that logic count for your brain?
Sure, you might be forgetting things, but isn’t it all too easy to blame that on your age?
Maybe your brain is just a little rusty, and you need to activate it by putting it to work. You may not have learned many new things in the last decade(s).
It’s similar to starting an exercise program.
If you have a sedentary lifestyle and you start physically working out, you will feel like shit in the beginning. I don’t care what age you are.
You’ll also feel inferior to other people who already work out… even if they’re older than you.
The same can happen to your brain if you haven’t used it much for a while.
It will feel a little rusty.
But with practice… it’ll get better.
Nothing Compares to You
If you often compare yourself unfavorably to younger learners, pay attention to the following:
It’s never useful to compare yourself to other language learners.
We all do it.
And we all feel inferior sometimes.
Whether we’re 6, 40 or 189 years old.
It’s again waaaaaay too easy to play the age card…
Rule #2: Accept the Stereotype that You’re Not as Good a Learner as Young People
Now, this might be a little confusing, but rule #2 is the opposite of rule #1.
Let me explain:
Rule #2 only comes into effect after you’ve done everything to prove yourself and your prejudices wrong.
Only when you’re 100% sure that your learning skills aren’t what they used to be, is it time to accept that “fact”.
But ONLY, after you’ve given it some time.
The wonderful news is that even if you come this conclusion…
It doesn’t matter!
Learning is: learning, forgetting and relearning anyway.
You learn a new word, you forget it, you relearn the word, you forget it again, etc…
Each cycle strengthens the memory connection in your brain.
If you’re older it might take a few more cycles for something to stick, but that’s fine. You can’t escape forgetting altogether, even if you’re 4 years old!
And let’s not forget some of the possible benefits of learning a language at any age.
- Improves Memory
- Improves Cognition
- Broadens your horizons
- May help protect against Alzheimer’s disease
- Enriches your social life
- Better decision-making skills
So, even if you don’t reach super-duper fluency—whatever that is—you’ll always benefit from language learning.
Therefore, Sir or Madam….
If you’re thinking about learning another language:
Make no excuses…
Only good things can come from it.
Until next time,