How to Learn a Language as an Adult3 min read

Many adults are afraid to start learning a new language, as they often hear that it is a lot more difficult than learning a language at a younger age. They feel discouraged from the very beginning, as they don’t believe they may succeed in mastering the language at a satisfactory level. The fact is, however, that most probably they have chosen the wrong methodolgy. Read on to get to know about different language learning strategies for adults.

You may know that when it comes to learning languages, the most successful students turn out to be school children. A child’s mind acts like a sponge, easily soaking in all the information, which adults may find difficult to get a hang of. Linguists state that the greatest change in our ability to learn languages occurs when reaching puberty. It does not mean, however, that learners cannot master a foreign language successfully at later stages of their lives. There is a number of strategies to facilitate your language learning, if you started your language adventure as an adult.


Learn a Language You Can Actually Use

In their recent study on language acquisition by adults, Michael Ullman and Kara Morgan-Short have demonstrated that learning a language through an implicit training, highly comparable to immersion and focused on developing skills that match real situations, might result in using the language more efficiently in various situations and retaining the skill better in the future. There’s nothing more efficient, they show, than linguistic immersion where you simply cannot operate without the use of the language you’re trying to master. It’s only in this context that adults can reach a native-like level in language use, so if you’ve been always dreaming of learning French, it’s high time you hop on a plane for a course located in one of the picturesque French cities. Experience tells that it’s best to choose a place where English is not a widely spoken language.

Don’t Stress Out and Be Spontaneous

One thing that surely adds to the difficulty in language acquisition is the self- consciousness that usually goes along with all the things we must learn for the first time. Adults often get stuck in their language learning when they obsessively try to work on their pronunciation or are constantly worried about following grammar rules. In order to get rid of those inhibitions, we suggest to treat language learning like child’s play – forget about making syntactic mistakes or pronunciation errors. Instead, try to focus on communicating your meaning or, what often helps to beat shyness, sing it. This is, after all, what language is all about and we’re pretty sure that the actual use of it will create a perfect opportunity for practicing your skills and correcting mistakes, ensuring the quality of your language acquisition.

Find Your Own Way to Learn a Language

Each of us has their own preferences on practically every aspect of life, including those related to language acquisition. If grammar makes your brain literally boil, try to adopt a different approach and focus on conversations, make yourself a bunch of flash cards, try a kids handbook if serious textbooks daunt you, make a vocabulary list or simply follow your instinct to lead you to the most efficient learning technique. Some find it easier to learn a language in a group – if you can’t convince anyone to learn a language with you, try enrolling in a class at your local university or language school. This way, you’ll make sure that your learning progress goes smoothly by having someone keeping you on track. Learning a foreign language is surely a hard nut to crack once you’re adult, but acquiring a native-like skills is not out of reach. If you follow our advice and practice regularly, you should succeed in mastering the language of your choice.

Yvonne Wells

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