We have all heard the saying “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” but is it really true?
There is no doubt that acquiring our first language or languages is easiest as a child. We are completely unaware of the processes taking place. We simply mimic that sounds of those around us and through a series of corrections and feedback we quickly begin to form words then phrases and eventually sentences. Although this is inherently easier from an “acquisition” perspective that doesn’t necessarily mean that the process of learning is easier when we were a child.
Think back to math class or geography. Was it necessarily easy for you to memorize all of the provinces and their capitals just because you were a child? How about learning how to calculate the area of a cube or the diameter of a circle? These subjects require learning and understanding that wasn’t necessarily easy just because you were a child.
As we get older we naturally get better at the process of learning. Many of us know what works best when it comes to learning something new. Are you better at listening or do you need to watch someone demonstrate something before you try it yourself. We all learn differently and one of the benefits of aging is that we have had much more time to figure out what works best for us!
The same can be applied to the process of learning a language. By focusing your energy on learning the essentials of what is needed to communicate in everyday situations through methods that work best for you, it is actually possible to learn another language quite quickly. Benny Lewis, a well known polyglot (speaker of multiple languages), has written a really interesting and candid article discussing this in detail (Take a look here).
The bottom line is, you are never too old to learn something new and the best time to start is now!