What's the best age to learn a language? Am I too old to learn a new language?

Today we shared a slide about, “What’s the best age to learn a language?”, it reminded me of a similar questions that Steve has talked about on his blog relating to age when learning a language. Here’s some interesting links on the topic:

What’s the best age to learn a language? What is the best age to learn a language?
Am I too old to learn a new language? Can Older Adult Learners Acquire New Languages? - The Linguist
Do children learn languages faster than adults? Language Acquisition: Do Children Learn Faster Than Adults? - LingQ

I’m curious what is everyone’s personal experience with this? Have you found it easier or more difficult to learn a language as you get older?

Of course, to learn a language when you are young is easier.
The memory is better, more free time etc.
The easiest age for it - to start with a language in the childhood.
However, it’s never late to learn a language.
Ans Steve’s experience prooves it.
And my own experience, too.

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I think I’m learning faster now than I did in my twenties. I don’t agree that childhood’s “the best time” either.

Probably, it’s because my learning technique has improved.

I started learning my first foreign language at the age of 30 :slight_smile: Of course we had “English” lessons at school but our teachers could not speak the language themselves :slight_smile: (my self-introduction in Russian is at Login - LingQ, just in case somebody would be interested)


I think we learn easily what interests for us and for whom we want to make efforts or more efforts than with quite different thing.

The youth of the brain is not correlated in the preformance intellectual to learn something in particular a foreign language.

I find that it’s more easy now. I 'm fifty and I understand more now how to approach a new language when I want learn it.

Of course you can learn a language. I have a saying: there is really only one thing in the world you can be too old for and that’s playing professional sports. If you are 40… You are probably too old to make professional tennis. But that’s it.

My friends father was able to learn fluent English in the states and he didn’t start until he moved here in his 50s. You need a can do attitude and persistence.

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Мы с вами ровесники :slight_smile:

I’m hoping you can learn a new language as an adult, evidence suggests that people do it, but to what level remains unclear to me. I don’t think it’s necessarily totally dependent on age but rather a mix of what you’ve done before, whether you’ve learnt another language earlier in your life as a kid or an adult, or perhaps what you have been doing in terms of cognitive activities over the last decade or so.

I’ve yet to see -although there may be many out there- an adult who has embarked on learning a 2nd language at age 30+ from scratch, without having any prior learning experience, reach a very high level in the new language. I know Steve doesn’t feel that age is an issue but when you’re coming from a situation of perhaps 10-15 years (or more) of being out of the education system it’s very tough to start learning something like a new language. I realize it’s tough for everyone but if you don’t have another language already and you haven’t been learning new things consistently for a long time, it’s incredibly difficult. That’s from my own perspective of course, add in a full time job, a family etc and it’s a tough road.

I have very limited knowledge on the subject but I do believe having only one language in your brain for decades is a big barrier to taking on a new one. Your native language gets in the way of laying down patterns of a new language, and perhaps being bilingual from an earlier age is an advantage. That’s not to say we can’t do it of course, but I do think a 50 year old learning his first language is going to have a much tougher time than a 20 year old, or even a fellow 50 year old who already has another language in their brain.

You could liken it to learning to drive a truck if you already drive a car vs someone trying to do it who has never driven a car in their life before. I’m not sure that’s the best example but you get the idea.

l have read, in English, a lot of novels that have intrigued me. I notice that I, in my latter half of my sixties, can understand almost all that is described in them. However, I am, still , faced with difficulties in expressing my ideas in English clearly, and do not speak it fluently. I think that my vocabulary is unbalanced, or rather, different from that of young Japanese people who speak English fluently but do not know great writers such as W. Somerset Maugham, one of my favorite writers, even by name. I want to assume that leaning a foreign language could have different meanings according to the age of learners. I cannot afford to spend too much part of my precious time trying to “balance” my English vocabulary.

While children learn better, what we have is passion, which is a great fuel. I don’t want to be that person that denies the facts and just says “it doesn’t matter, because it’s all about interest” but it is true! Passion definitely helps.

I do wish I would’ve been this interested when I was younger. If I started when I was 15, I would already have 10 years of Russian under my belt, but I’m here now, and there’s nothing I can do about it! I am still learning and having fun.

At the Russian church I go to, the older members definitely learned English quite well, so I don’t think there’s an age limit. Yes, you can’t deny the younger the better.

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My point of view, when we do not reach the goal and it is that we stay in a comfortable zone for us and thus it let us not progress. When we decide to identify of this zone, I think we progress perhaps no faster but we make real progress. It’ my opinion,other example when you speak one or plus languages my perception of my voice is different and with spanish it 's very more confortable, with the russian the sounds and the words are easy if we say it.

@Dimethylamine: “…While children learn better, what we have is passion, which is a great fuel…”

I think passion is the key - especially for younger folks (i.e. under 30s)

Certainly it chimes with my own experience. When I was a little younger - still in my 20s and early 30s - I had a kind of drive and staying power for learning which enabled me to keep on coming back for more punishment. Now (age 40) I do find it harder to sustain motivation for weeks and months at a time. I find myself asking “why am I even doing this?” There is also a certain sense of “yawn, been there already”, when one has already learned one or more foreign languages to a quite high level, and then starts another one.

I wonder whether the single most important thing that differentiates people like Steve Kaufman, Alexander Arguelles, Richard Simcot, et al from more regular people is that they still have this desire and motivation to go on learning more and ever more languages!? (Arguably it is a kind of eccentricity though - if we’re going to be quite honest.)

Yes, I agree with that. Though, perhaps it’s not so much a passion to learn more languages as it is a love of the process. Personally I’m not a big fan of the process, that’s not to say I hate it, because you can gain many small victories along the way that can be satisfying.

I wouldn’t say I love it though, and maybe that’s the thing that separates a polyglot from the rest, they genuinely love the learning process and would rather be learning another language over doing anything else?

Ooops. read RESEARCH for reach

Can I learn Russian in my 70th year. Well, I already recognise over 4000 words after six weeks at Lingq, so the answer must be yes! There is only one thing necessary, keep on reading and listening.The brain does not age!

For me, what’s define if you’ll be successful learning a new language is how big your wishes are!

A mix of Routine and a good material, doesn’t matter how old you are, you’ll learn.

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Unfortunatelly, the brain ages gradually.
in my 20th I could read only once 50 new words and keep in my head 45 of them.
Now, in my 60th I read 50 words and keep after the first looking only 5 of them.
However, learning a language is not only interesting but also very useful for our brain.
It’s like morning exercises for our heads!