Many people think that learning a foreign language is best done as a child or when you are younger when your mind is more receptive to picking up new words and your memory is better. However, is this really true? Investigations have shown that adults do actually learn languages better than children.
Yes children pick up words quickly but with languages they are also easily forgotten if not used regularly and this is the case at any age!
In fact there are many advantages to learning a language as an adult which we will discuss in this blog post. Not only that, we will also give you tips as to how to enjoy learning a language later in life.
Most opportunities to learn a second language occur when you are at school or if you are a child with a parent who speaks a different language to you. Lots of adults that I have helped learn Spanish have said to me that they had no interest in learning a language in school. The lessons were too difficult and boring and they saw no real purpose for learning a language for later life. Many do say that they wished they had tried harder to learn the language in school and to keep it going after leaving school because they would love to say they can speak another language now.
The reasons that adults choose to learn Spanish later in life are varied but normally cover one of these motives:
When going to a Spanish-speaking country it can be daunting not knowing a word of the local language. Even greeting someone in Spanish when you go into a shop, hotel or bar can go a long way to feeling welcomed and accepted by the local people.
It can also help you find the best places to visit, eat and shop as well as bagging yourself a great bargain!
Perhaps the next most common reason for learning is to communicate more easily with Spanish partners, colleagues, suppliers or clients abroad. We all know we can rely on them speaking English, the universal language of business, however, it shows more respect and openness to learning about their culture if we can speak in their native language.
As Nelson Mandela said: “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.”
It is often the case these days for someone to have a Spanish-speaking partner, spouse or relative. By being able to speak Spanish you can develop much better relationships with their relatives and friends. You won’t be left out during parties, meals and other family get-togethers if you can follow what they are saying and contribute to the conversation.
Many people opt to learn Spanish simply for enjoyment because it is something they have always wanted to do. Spanish is a fun language to learn and is one of the easiest for native English speakers to learn.
Why learning a language as an adult is better than as a child:
According to research to make a habit stick long-term it takes 21 days of doing the activity. If you start doing something at the same time every day, you will find it easy to stick to and find yourself going to do that thing automatically.
The most successful language learners are those that find the time to do some form of study or use the language every day.
Make sure you revisit everything new you learn regularly. This might mean using your flashcard app every other day to recap words you have recently added. There is no point keep adding words and not making sure you actually learn and memorise them. This is how you will make sure you retain vocabulary in the long term.
The best way to make sure you stay focused and make good progress is to set out from day one your goals and what you aim to achieve in different time frames.
You need both short and long-term goals to keep you motivated.
For example, you may decide that within the first month of learning the language you want to have memorised the 100 most used words in Spanish.
As a long term goal you may want to have your first language exchange conversation with a native speaker after one year of learning the language.
By having goals to work towards you will know what you are aiming for and can work to a schedule to achieve these.
The beauty of learning a language as an adult is that you can decide what resources and methods you want to use. You may not like working from books, you may prefer listening to CDs such as the Michel Thomas range.
To make learning authentic and more exciting you can use real resources from Spain. For example you can listen to Spanish radio stations online, you can watch Spanish TV series on Netflix, try out a Spanish recipe you find online or follow Spanish people on Twitter or Instagram.
6) Play board games in Spanish
You can even get Spanish versions of popular games such as Scrabble
Spanish Bingo With games like these you find yourself using the same words and phrases over again so the repetition helps you learn easily.
Try to use a whole range of resources. The more different materials that you use, the better. This will avoid becoming bored and your learning stagnating. Not only this, you will get a fuller perspective of how the language is really used. So try to use a range of styles; formal learning books for serious intensive study of grammar, more casual learning from songs or TV shows as well as formal articles from newspapers such as El País and news site such as BBC Mundo.
This may feel a bit odd at first but it really is a great way to put into practice what you are learning as well as improve your pronunciation.
Find ways to measure your progress to keep on track. You might use a flashcard app such as Ankiapp to monitor how many words you are remembering correctly or a language app such as Duolingo which keeps a daily score of your progress. This helps you recognise where your weaknesses are and what you need to work on.
The best way to keep yourself motivated to continue learning Spanish is by treating yourself every time you achieve a goal that you set out to. So you might treat yourself to a new pair of shoes once you have learnt all of the vocabulary related to clothes and shopping or a meal out once you have learnt as many words as you can for foods and drinks.
People around you may not always understand what you are doing and how difficult it really is so this will really help you to recognise your achievements and spur you on to achieve the next one!