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What is the best age to learn a language?

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B D Finch  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 05:52
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
From birth to 12 Jan 15

Naturally, babies start learning their first language soon after birth. So, exposure to a second language might be initiated from the start. https://www.princeton.edu/news/2017/08/07/bilingual-babies-listen-languages-and-dont-get-confused

However, I have known a couple of children who forgot their original languages when they m
... See more
Naturally, babies start learning their first language soon after birth. So, exposure to a second language might be initiated from the start. https://www.princeton.edu/news/2017/08/07/bilingual-babies-listen-languages-and-dont-get-confused

However, I have known a couple of children who forgot their original languages when they moved back to England with English-speaking parents. In one case, the forgetting started at around nine years old and, in the other case, at five to six years old. In the latter case, once the child acquired a sufficient grasp of English (which he had never understood or spoken until he was nearly five years old), he refused to use his original language, pretended not to understand it and seemed to have completely forgotten it within a year or two. His original language had been acquired early and his linguistic skills were well above average for his age, though he hadn't learnt to read before switching to English. By the time he was seven, his competence in English, including reading, was advanced for his age and one wouldn't have guessed that English hadn't been his first language. The linguistic skills seemed to be completely transferrable. Unfortunately, he failed to acquire a second language at school, but I believe he did acquire one later (not his original language).

The big difference is that adults don't completely forget a language once they have acquired it, even if they haven't used it for years. I believe that language acquisition can happen at any age, but not as fast or as efficiently. Adults who believe they can learn another language can do it. How well they learn depends on other factors as well as age. At any age, immersion certainly helps a lot and a period of immersion is essential for fluency.

As a contribution to the previous nit-picking, I'd say "What's the best age for learning a language?"

[Edited at 2019-01-15 19:16 GMT]
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Angie Garbarino
 

Ph_B
France
Local time: 05:52
Member (Jan 2019)
French
+ ...
Any age – if you need a roof over your head! Jan 16

Christine Andersen wrote:

Motivation is vital, and immersion in the language (...) will make a big difference,


I vote for motivation and immersion too.

Having a house refurbished in a foreign country you’ve just moved to will work wonders when learning a language : school and college just don’t prepare you for that linguistic ordeal.

We’d just moved to Surrey from France and hired a roofer that had been recommended by our neighbours, except that we hadn’t been told he’d moved south from Glasgow. Now don’t get me wrong : I don’t mind accents, it’s just that you need to get used to them pretty fast if you want your roof to make any progress (rain isn’t unheard of in the UK, you know).

I call that motivation; as for immersion, what else in the context of leaking roofs?

Learning a language may not be a problem for children, but adults can be quite good at it too, given the right circumstances.


Teresa Borges
Tom in London
Daryo
 

Wilsonn Perez Reyes  Identity Verified
El Salvador
Local time: 22:52
Member (2007)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Opinion from a member Jan 19

"Bored at age 40 so started learning Spanish by our swimming pool in Tenerife. It's been keeping my brain active ever since."
https://www.proz.com/profile/1696447


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:52
Member (2008)
Italian to English
what? Jan 19

Chris S wrote:

I'm just wondering what's the best way to demonstrate this.


Please finish the sentence. To demonstrate this what? This new miracle product that cleans your bathroom?

[Edited at 2019-01-19 09:58 GMT]


 
Post removed: This post was hidden by a moderator or staff member because it was not in line with site rule

Mr.Q  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 05:52
French to English
+ ...
what? Jan 29

Tom in London wrote:

Chris S wrote:

I'm just wondering what's the best way to demonstrate this.


Please finish the sentence. To demonstrate this what? This new miracle product that cleans your bathroom?

[Edited at 2019-01-19 09:58 GMT]



I suspect the irony may have got lost somewhere in the Proz woods...


 

Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
Silly bang Jan 30

Mr.Q wrote:

Tom in London wrote:

Chris S wrote:

I'm just wondering what's the best way to demonstrate this.


Please finish the sentence. To demonstrate this what? This new miracle product that cleans your bathroom?

[Edited at 2019-01-19 09:58 GMT]


I suspect the irony may have got lost somewhere in the Proz woods...


I suspect I was being a little too clever.

I wonder if this is a good time to make the same point again?


Kay Denney
 

Marijke Singer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:52
Member
Dutch to English
+ ...
Other variables play a role too Apr 27

I brought up both my children bilingually in Dutch and English. When we lived in the Netherlands, I spoke English and when we lived in the UK, I spoke Dutch. My son (now 28) who has an analytical brain learned to speak both languages very well and then also learned German. My daughter (now 25) only uses language to communicate and her Dutch is poor although she understands it very well. Her English is good although her grammar is poor (we now live in the UK and English is the language she really... See more
I brought up both my children bilingually in Dutch and English. When we lived in the Netherlands, I spoke English and when we lived in the UK, I spoke Dutch. My son (now 28) who has an analytical brain learned to speak both languages very well and then also learned German. My daughter (now 25) only uses language to communicate and her Dutch is poor although she understands it very well. Her English is good although her grammar is poor (we now live in the UK and English is the language she really needs). My son has the ability of rewording what he says when speaking to people from foreign countries. It is instant and he does not have to think about it. In other words, he understands that grammar is different in other languages and can accommodate this in his speech. My daughter cannot do this. I am fairly confident that my son could learn any language within a year should he have to. I also believe that once you are bilingual, you can learn more languages fairly easily because you are aware that the rules that apply to your first language may not apply to your second, etc. and are therefore more open to differences.Collapse


 

Elizabeth Tamblin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:52
Member (2012)
French to English
Mary Hobson started learning Russian at 56 Apr 27

I find her story very inspiring. There was a thread here about her recently:

https://www.proz.com/forum/lighter_side_of_trans_interp/301297-translator_mary_hobson_decided_to_learn_russian_at_the_age_of_56_earned_phd_at_74.html


 

Andrew Morris

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ProZ.com team
Still learning after all these years Apr 28

I had to start Spanish from scratch when I arrived in Spain 18 months ago, aged 53 and a half.

I am now more or less at C1 level but it took a lot of work. It was certainly easier when I learned Chinese aged 24 or Turkish aged 27.

It’s still possible at any age, but later in life it requires a great deal more effort and self-discipline, in my experience.


Mr.Q
 

DZiW
Ukraine
English to Russian
+ ...
Struggling for life early and late Apr 28

While the age directly effects one's performance rate in many aspects, I think learning a language has more to do with (1) the learning skills and habits coupled with (2) joy and (3) motivation.

 

Jiyong Kim
South Korea
Local time: 13:52
Member (May 2019)
English to Korean
Interest is the key May 6

If you are interested in a foreign language, you will learn it no matter how old you are.
If you are not interested in, you will hardly learn anything. I feel 20s is good period to pick up new language as long as you have desire.


Angie Garbarino
 
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