Will I Ever Learn
On a recent train journey I was seated across from a party of young students from Italy. Having picked up a smattering of the language many moons ago, I attempted to catch something of what they were discussing and flirted with the notion that I could ‘tune in’ to their energetic discussion. Of course, trying to keep up with the enthusiastic chatter of a bunch of young animated adults was well beyond my rudimentary grasp of ‘holiday’ speak’, so I returned once more to my book and, feeling rather silly, tuned them back out.
The Advantage of Age
Almost as soon as I returned home I decided to research language learning for the more mature student, and was pleasantly surprised by what I found. Rather than my age being the expected obstacle to acquiring new knowledge, various companies (all admittedly trying to sell me their courses…) , confidently stated that my age could have distinct advantages.
According to online language course provider Babbel, “there’s absolutely no reason why you can’t learn a language up to a ripe old age.” They back this notion up with scientific examples of “self-directed learning” – the thing that the mature student is supposed to be rather good at! (read it for yourself here)
70 and still learning…
In a blog article on Lingualift.com they highlighted a former Canadian diplomat who could speak 12-15 languages – he started learning his 9th language, Russian, when he was 60 and Portuguese when he was 62. He’s now 70 and apparently still learning. According to their blog, citing research from Stanford and York Universities, “adults already understand how language works and are often more motivated to develop their vocabulary than children or teens…It may take a little longer or more focused study, but because adults already understand some of the contextual and theoretical links between language and meaning across a variety of different topics, they have many advantages that children do not.”
So, I am now all signed up for a beginners Italian course online and rather looking forward to my next train journey. Of course, knowing my luck, my fellow travellers will be conversing in a different tongue and my eavesdropping endeavours will be thwarted once again!