You are Never Too Old to Learn a Language

10/22/2013

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Since the end of September, the UK has launched a campaign called Speak to the Future. Supported by the British Council, the CBI, the British Academy and various education institutions, the campaign aims to improve British people's capability in languages and to arouse their attention to the country's economic and cultural importance. As part of the campaign, one project is to push every British man to manage at least 1,000 words in a foreign language, since experts say that a thousand words will enable a language learner to make a simple conversation.


Upset by the fact that fewer A-Level students study languages and media reports about British workers failing their positions due to a lack of foreign language knowledge, educational experts and business heads in the UK have urged the country to improve such situations. A staff of the campaign told BBC that language learning should not be something elitist as long as all levels of the business workforce want people who have language skills.


As Vicky Gough of the British Council said to the media, "Speaking another language is crucial to understand another culture", lots of people ARE aware of this and have the enthusiasm to learn a foreign language. However, many of the adult learners happen to find themselves making little progress in language learning compared with kids who study foreign languages at school. As a result, there has come a notion that children are better at language study than adults: children have better memories, are more adaptive to new knowledge, learn things more quickly…


According to British linguistic researchers, the foregoing statements are all "myths". They are not true. In fact, adults have advantages in language learning than kids. The Telegraph summarized in its report the four ways how adults could do better. The first reason why adults can have better performance is that they have already managed the mechanisms of language such as the elements of grammar, sentence structures and languages rules while children are still at the beginning of this point. In other words, adults know how languages work.


The second key to adults' success to language learning is that pronunciation does not matter so much as people have thought. Researches have proven that younger learner are more absorptive to new sounds and can identify minor differences in words with similar pronunciation, and older learner often cannot avoid their accent while speaking a foreign language, but poor pronunciation does not suggest deficiency in fluency. Thirdly, the reason why some adults shun speaking a foreign language probably does not lie in themselves. It is the higher measure and expectation for adult learners that make them unwilling to speak. At this point, adult learners are encouraged to feel free like children do, since the latter are not easily embarrassed.


The last and most important issue to notice is that older learners can succeed as greatly as younger ones with the same resources. Studies found that those adults who failed in language learning are the ones who studied alone at home using educational software or Apps. Things will get much better if they learn a language with the help of a professional teacher and conversational partners (just as children do at school). Children's language classes often have more plays and songs, which are also of great help to their language study.


"This is a case of opportunity, not ability," reported the Telegraph. These words well concluded the real idea of language learning. As a language learner, you are never too old to study and it's never too late for you to study. With their pre-existing linguistic skills, older learner can do even better than kids as long as they take immersive courses and find the right ways to learn.


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