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Poll: What is the maximum age to start learning a new language?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff
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May 10

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "What is the maximum age to start learning a new language?".

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Yetta J Bogarde  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 00:42
Member (2012)
English to Danish
+ ...
There is no such thing, May 10

but you pick it up faster the younger you are.

You also forget it faster (with no exposure) the younger you are.

But that this is only in principle, since it very much depends on a persons natural aptitude and, not to forget, interest.


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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 00:42
Spanish to English
+ ...
No such animile May 10

I went back to university at the age of 26, as a mature student. In my Russian class, there was another mature student in his 70s, who only began studying formally after he retired. He had worked for years as a radio operator in the Falklands and the South Atlantic and it was great to have someone of his knowledge and experience in the class.

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Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 23:42
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
There is no such thing! May 10

A mature student, irrespective of age, sees studying from a different perspective: younger students can feel like they have already spent their whole lives at school while for mature students studying will be a break from the norm and a chance to try something new. As a mature student, the choice is yours alone; no one is telling you what to study. In general, this gives a higher level of enthusiasm and motivation…

P.S. I studied French and English as a young student and Spanish and Italian as a mature student. As a matter of fact, I’m still learning Italian…


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DianeGM  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:42
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
No .. May 10

such thing.
I think as long as you want to learn and are willing and able to put the effort into that learning - then you can and will learn.
Not just language either, I think that applies to everything and anything too.


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Jenny Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:42
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
Motivation May 10

Motivation is everything when it comes to learning, regardless of age.
If you have a genuine need to learn something, you'll invest the time and effort required.
Of course, young brains are receptive to new information of all kinds and young children are naturally curious and eager to understand the world and to be understood.
In my experience one of the great motivators for language learning is to fall in love with a native speaker of the language concerned. Then, everything about that person's life, language and culture becomes irresistibly fascinating.


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Julian Holmes  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 08:42
Member (2011)
Japanese to English
Never too late to learn May 10

As Jenny says, motivation is everything. I have a whole bucket list of things to do in my 'later life,' one of which is to keep on skiing till I'm at least 80.
Learning a new language - while trying not to let my current ones slip - would be a great way to keep my mind nimble. So, is playing mahjong. But, then, that's a different matter.


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Bora Tasdemir  Identity Verified
Switzerland
Local time: 00:42
Member (2012)
English to Turkish
+ ...
I also teach English... May 10

I also teach English as a second job and I have many situdents from different ages. And you know what, in one class I have a student who is over 50 years old and she is doing much better than the younger ones
Well, you learn a foreign language faster at younger ages, that's true. But still, you need the talent, I mean the "interest in it". If you are not interested in it, it's not possible for you to learn another language even if you are like 20 years old. But if you are interested in it, and you are over 50, you'll do it


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Ricki Farn
Germany
Local time: 00:42
Member (2005)
English to German
No limits May 10

I used to know a guy who started learning Turkish after he retired, and learned it so well that he was able to be interviewed on Turkish TV. And Turkish is really difficult for Germans for a "theoretical" reason: which letters can be next to which others is very different in the two languages (I'm sure there's a technical term for that).

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Thayenga  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 00:42
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
No restrictions May 10

It doesn't matter how old someone is when it comes to learning anything. All that matters are their enthusiasm and the fitness of their brain. In fact, a lady I know just got her Master degree in French from the UCLA at the wonderful age of 79. Her next goal is to get at least a Bachelor in Japanese. She is the living proof that age is, in fact, nothing but a number.

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Armorel Young  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:42
German to English
Good for older people May 10

The media seem to be constantly suggesting that learning languages is a good way for older people to keep their minds active, and that it may help to ward off dementia.

I fail to see why there should be any sort of maximum age - unless the question meant to ask whether there is a maximum age to start learning a language that you hope to use professionally, but even then the answer will depend hugely on the individual's ability and motivation.


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Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 18:42
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
If the goal is near-native mastery... May 10

...then the answer can only be "under 20."

[Linguistic note: Technically, the correct answer to the question as written would be "none," such "maximum" is something of an embarrassing error for the clearly intended "optimum"].

[Edited at 2017-05-10 16:40 GMT]


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 23:42
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
A first foreign language, or another foreign language? May 10

Yetta J Bogarde wrote:

There is no such thing, but you pick it up faster the younger you are.

You also forget it faster (with no exposure) the younger you are.

But that this is only in principle, since it very much depends on a persons natural aptitude and, not to forget, interest.

My monolingual English son was seven when he started at the French school in the Netherlands. Three years later, when we moved to France, he was ten and nattering away to kids his age in both languages with no problems at all. But by twelve he'd lost almost every word of Dutch. Gone, as quickly as it had been acquired!

I didn't have a word of Spanish when I arrived here at the age of 56. I'm still really struggling five years later, partly due to my age and partly due to English being very much the lingua franca in our very cosmopolitan community, but I have at least reached a B1 level and I'm still making slow progress.

In 15 years of teaching EFL in France I had several students in their fifties or older. Some managed perfectly well, but there were others who never ever managed to utter an English sentence in year after year of lessons. In each case they were monolingual French speakers and they simply couldn't cope with anything that didn't have an exact word-for-word match with their language. So they were OK with "I am French" (not the contraction) but pretty much gave up with "How are you?" and "What's your name?". Lesson 2 didn't go well; nor did Lessons 3-99 .


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 00:42
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Depends who you are and what you want to use it for May 10

I started learning Italian a year ago at 65. It would go better if lessons were more frequent - one or two a month is not enough!

I will never be able to use it professionally... and I have just been on a trip through France and Belgium. I understand most of the French, but can't say much myself. German on the way home to Denmark goes fine, and I started learning German at 16. Danish at 27, and whatever the experts say, I am pretty well bilingual in practice.

I think each person has a 'window' for learning languages, and as long as you keep learning languages, it stays open. I was still actively working on French and then German up through my twenties, so Danish - with immersion, intensive lessons and the lot - went fine. I was fluent after a year, and being in love is no hindrance!! Living in it, bringing my son up in it and working in it, I feel as if it is a second native language. I do have a slight accent, but it takes some people a long time to notice.

The smattering of Hindi I learnt as a child came back when I visited India a few years ago... Several of my parents' colleagues did not start learning Indian languages until they were quite mature, but ended up fluent.
If you like languages and have grown up with them, you can go on learning them as long as you feel motivated.


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Mario Freitas  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 21:42
Member (2014)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
No such a thing, May 11

Although it is widely known that children from 1 to 5 will learn a language a lot faster (without rules, just speaking), and will be a lot more likely to be great linguists when they grow up.

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