Jump to content
Linguaholic

Is It Possible, in Middle Age, To Become Proficient in a Language?


Recommended Posts

It seems to be easier if you speak a language every day to become proficient in it. Can you still master the language if you start late and don't get to use it? Of course, I would find someone to talk to in it--I'm not at all shy!

Link to post
Share on other sites

I am sure that it is possible. Of course it will be a little bit more difficult to learn it compared to learning a language at a very young age. Nonetheless, I know MANY people, who learned a new language at a fairly old age (50+ or even 60+).

I would like to give you specific example:

I study Chinese and Computational Linguistics at the University of Zurich. In our class last year, there was a charming old lady, about 65 years old, that started learning Chinese with me. She was actually doing pretty well and by now, she almost finished her bachelor degree in Sinology. When I was in China, I also met a very old Japanese guy (maybe more than 70 years old) and he was also studying Chinese in China at the same university as me. In this case, I do not know exactly about his level in Chinese, however I admired him, that he still had so much passion about learning a new language!

I can name some more examples if necessary :=) If you ask me, learning a new language is always possible, all you will need are three things: long-time motivation, dedication and above all, PASSION.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I agree with the above.  It is CERTAINLY possible.  You may not be able to achieve fluency (though if you're able to travel to a country that speaks the language often or to live in a country that does, it may certainly be possible too) but there is no reason you can't reach proficiency in a language at any age if you are willing to devote substantial time to doing so.

As another concrete example (adding to the above) when my mom was around 50 she wanted to learn Spanish.  It is now 5 years later and she is certainly at an advanced conversational level.  She has sought out any opportunity possible to speak the language and devoted several hour each week to it, and it has really paid off!

Link to post
Share on other sites
Scribendi: World-Class Editing and Proofreading

Of course it is possible! Middle age is hardly late enough to inhibit language learning. :) All you need is someone to converse in that particular language with everyday. You're never to old for anything, until you mentally feel it, or physically can't take it any longer. :)

Link to post
Share on other sites

I would not let age be a barrier to learning a language.  That seems to me to be an assumption that is as negative and invalid as assuming that girls and women don't have the same capacity to learn mathematics and science as boys and men.  It is not the lack of ability, but rather, in some cases, that female students are not encouraged to take part in these subjects, although this has been changing in the last few decades.

These kinds of negative assumptions and stereotypes impact people's expectations of what is possible and of what they can accomplish. 

That special facility for learning languages is characteristic of young preschool children. But once we reach adulthood, we are all pretty much in the same circumstance, cognitively speaking, regardless of whether we are 20 years old or 50 or 70 or more.  So long as we have the mental clarity, focus, discipline, the interest and the motivation, we can learn another language.  And many in this thread have made note of people whom they personally know who have learned languages in middle age and beyond, which is very inspiring! 

So I would definitely charge ahead, and learn the language you are aspiring to learn.    :smile:

Link to post
Share on other sites

It had better be because I'm about to spend money on learning Italian and I'mm 55. I think experience can help learning, and at 55 I'm a lot more motivated than at 25. Things can only get better and as they say, youth is wasted on the young.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I believe it is definitely possible. I know many people that have started in their 50's and became well adapted to it and even used it while on vacation to other countries. It's never too late to learn something new. I've also read and heard that you learn more in your old age.

Link to post
Share on other sites

It is absolutely possible!  When my Mother was in her mid 40's she learned French.  She did not become completely fluent but she learned enough to get by during her trips to France as well as communicate with a penpal in France.  Never give up.  Remember, people are living much longer these days.  The new middle age is really 55 - 65.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I am so glad to hear all of the encouraging comments. I have wanted to learn Spanish for years. Now I married a man who speaks fluent Spanish so I can practice everyday. But it is still a struggle for me to stay focused. I certainly don't pick up and retain things like I did when I was younger. Right now I am building my vocabulary a few words each day and its progressing, but it is very slow.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I am so glad to hear all of the encouraging comments. I have wanted to learn Spanish for years. Now I married a man who speaks fluent Spanish so I can practice everyday. But it is still a struggle for me to stay focused. I certainly don't pick up and retain things like I did when I was younger. Right now I am building my vocabulary a few words each day and its progressing, but it is very slow.

Likewise, your comments are encouraging!  That's great that you are learning the language.  You've fortunate to be married to someone fluent in Spanish. 

Along with discipline, motivation and passion, having favorable circumstances will foster language learning at any age.  It's so important to have access to an opportunity to learn.  The Internet is a tremendous resource towards that end. After all, it has made it possible for us to have such a supportive community here! 

Link to post
Share on other sites

It is very, very possible to become proficient in a language if you don't start till middle age!

Once we are no longer children, time is no longer of the essence.

A child's ability to learn a language greatly decreases with each year.  A baby learns a language easier than a five-year old, but a five-year old still has the ability to "pick up" a language and eventually speak it with near-native proficiency.  Even a ten-year-old can easily learn a language and speak relatively accent-free as an adult.

However, after puberty, it becomes much harder to learn a language.  Generally, the ability to learn a language isn't too different between a 25-year-old and a 45-year-old.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 2 months later...

I don't see why it would not be possible. I mean the only thing I can see holding someone back from learning a language is it being time consuming. Other than that, I believe learning a new language to be fairly easy for anyone no matter the age.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I agree with what has been said, plus immersion to the people who naturally speak the language will accelerate the learning process. My dad learned a local dialect when he was already a middle aged guy, he was around 50 that time just because he was exposed to a lot of his office mates that spoke that dialect. So he eventually learned the basic words and phrases of that dialect.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes. It all depends on your mindset.

Consider all of the people who immigrant to America later in life with their family. They have to learn English, a brand new culture and obtain a job. Youth definitely gives children an edge, but hard work evens the scale for adults.

Link to post
Share on other sites

You can learn a language [or anything else you please to] at any age. I don't think there are any special age requirements for learning languages. Of course kids learn languages faster but the pace of learning shouldn't be an issue because with the right attitude and taking classes daily, you'll be proficient in any language in under four years.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 2 months later...

An individual can accomplish anything as long as you put your mind to it. I believe it is quite possible for a middle aged person to be proficient in a new language. I remember seeing on TV an elderly woman, about age 80, highlighted in the evening news. She had just graduated from university and had done very well too. So although it may take a little more time but with hard work it can be done.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I believe so, Age doesn't matter. In our country a 70-80 year old person passed the Bar Examinations which and even topped it. I mean how amazing is that, an old person studying Law school and topping the Bar Examinations, it's just crazy. It doesn't matter how old you are, it matters how determined you are to learn a language.

Link to post
Share on other sites

People can learn anything they set their minds on at any age as long as they have the ability [it'd take centuries to teach a mentally handicapped person anything] and their willingness to learn. But I suppose once people get to that age, they just don't want to learn anything else anymore. That attitude would be what holds most middle-aged people from learning languages.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes you can if you set your heart into it. It might be a little harder but if you can give it enough effort, you can do it. I agree it's the attitude towards learning that ultimately influences your success. Don't give up easily and keep trying and anything can be done.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
×
×
  • Create New...