PEARTREE LIFE: Experiencing Languages

Am I too old to learn a new language?

Many people will remember long hours spent in school classrooms trying to understand the irregular verbs in French or parroting Spanish vocabulary.


For others though, it is very easy to learn new words and expressions without much effort. It seems that language learning differs a lot between people depending on their method, first language, and motivation among others. We all have heard people saying “I am too old to learn something new”, but what if we approached this situation with a different mindset?

Many studies suggest that young children have fewer problems learning a new language than adults do. The ‘critical period’ of this ability for children ends at about 10 years of age. After this period, the brain is not primarily working on language acquisition anymore, as when we are babies, but has to control other things.

While children can even grow up bilingual and speak Italian with their mother but English with their father, adults need to put more work into balancing two languages at the same time.

People who grow up with a different first language to their parents might also feel the need to learn their mother tongue for cultural reasons. In 2015, The Guardian reported on the case of Ronald Williams, a Welshman who didn’t learn Welsh until he was 70 years old.

“I’m a Welshman and everybody should be able to speak their national language.” 

Williams used online courses like “Say Something in Welsh” (https://www.saysomethingin.com/welsh/course1/intro) to spark his interest and love for the language. Fortunately, many websites nowadays offer free resources and online courses for language learning. In addition to this, it is also helpful to follow a foreign news station or TV series in order to learn more about the language of your dreams. Particularly for older learners, the motivation and effort they put into it can help to keep the brain fit and fight off depression and loneliness.



“I was excited at the prospect of learning a language,” says Williams. “I regret not doing it in my younger days. When you’re bringing up a family and working, you’re committed to those things. Learning a language and meeting people is exciting. It’s nice to go out and I look forward to [it].”


But not just senior citizens can start something new, working professionals can take advantage of many different evening classes. The UK has long been known for its hesitation towards language learning opportunities at school and elsewhere. We should, therefore, try to take on a new challenge every once in a while by learning a foreign language, for example!

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About Peartree Languages

Peartree Languages is a language school located in Cardiff.

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