One of the most often heard excuses for not learning a new language is “I’m too old”.
It’s generally accepted that children are ‘better’ at learning new languages than adults. A new study challenges this idea though, showing that adults are better than children at acquiring a new language skill. The issue may be social convention – it’s easier to correct a child when they say something wrong than it is an adult.
The researchers devised a test giving 8 year olds, 12 year olds and adults a new, made-up language rule to learn. The rule stated that verbs were pronounced and spelled differently depending on whether they referred to an inanimate or animate object.
“The adults were consistently better in everything we measured,” says Ferman. When asked to apply the rule to new words, the 8-year-olds performed no better than chance, while most 12-year-olds and adults scored over 90 per cent. Adults fared best, and have great potential for learning new languages implicitly, says Ferman. Unlike the younger children, most adults and 12-year-olds worked out the way the rule worked – and once they did, their scores soared. This shows that explicit learning is also crucial, says Ferman. (Source: New Scientist)
So, your ability to learn a new language is there – now there’s no excuse not to!