We have all seen it. A family moves to a foreign country and none of them speak the local language; a year later, the kids speak really well while the parents still struggle. Do children have a super ability for learning languages, or is there something deeper going on? In this post, we’ll take a look at the weaknesses and strengths of both adults and children when learning languages.
Studies have shown that adults and adolescents learn almost every language skill faster than children. Surprising, isn’t it? They understand grammar, learn vocabulary, learn to read and express complex ideas at a faster rate than children. Adults have a life experience; they have learned how their memory works and how to study. They can build upon what they already know. They can learn with the help of their native language to better understand the meaning of words and discover various similarities. Adults have a lot of advantages over children when learning a new language. Many people forget these things and believe that it’s almost impossible to acquire a new language in adulthood. This thought alone is hurting adult language learners everywhere. Adults learn languages extremely well. If you’re wondering if you’re too old, the answer is no; you are certainly not. So, if adults have been shown to learn faster than children, then why do so many people believe otherwise? Let’s take a look.
In terms of being able to perfectly reproduce the native accents, children have the upper hand. In many cases, the younger the children are, the better they will become at reproducing foreign sounds. Children are much better at mimicking new sounds than adults. This makes them sound as if they are more fluent in the new language they’re learning. As we grow older, this skill seems to decrease in efficiency; we’ll have a much harder time reproducing sounds completely unknown to us. This is by far the greatest strength children have over adults. The good news is that it doesn’t really change anything in terms of fluency. Adults can certainly learn to speak fluently, even if they have a noticeable accent in the language.
An adult and a three-year-old child don’t have the same vocabulary in their native language. So if the child learns a few hundred words in a new language, he’s already considered fluent because he has already caught up to his native language. As an adult, even if you learn five times as much vocabulary as the child, you will still have a lot of work to do to express complex ideas with the same level of fluency as your native language. As adults, we don’t realize how incredibly awesome we are at our native language. It has taken us a lifetime to get here, so consequently, it will take us a bit of time to reach that high level in a second or third language.
These high expectations also make adults self-conscious. They don’t want to sound stupid when speaking a new language. Adults often avoid speaking the language and stay in their comfort zone as much as possible. Children don’t seem to care as much. They start using the language quickly to express what they want even if their vocabulary is very limited. They simply say “candy” when they want some candy. The idea gets across and they build their vocabulary as time goes by. As adults, we’ll likely feel self-conscious until we can say “I would like to try your apple-cinnamon lollipop in the green packaging on the third shelf behind you”. In this aspect, we should be more like children and be okay with not being perfect.
It is more rare for children to learn a second language as a hobby. They are often thrown in a new language because their parents moved to a different area or because they are attending immersion school. Children are often forced to learn if they want to make friends. Adults tend to cling to their comfort zone like a leech. Even when they live in a city with a different language, they often find friends who speak their native language. They speak their native language at home, watch TV in their native language, and read in their native language. Adults have a hard time immersing themselves. Young children don’t think much about learning languages, they simply start using what they know, and listen to their friends and surroundings to learn lots of new words. They never wonder if they are making progress or if what they say is grammatically correct. They make progress naturally. That’s a major advantage children have over adults, but we can learn to be more like them.
Adults are great at learning languages consciously. They make incredible progress in a classroom or when learning from a language-learning program like OUINO. Unfortunately, this huge strength can also become a weakness. Since they are so good at learning from lessons, they often stop there. They forget to watch movies, listen to music, make friends, read awesome books and basically live the language. Language exposure is an incredibly important part of language learning. If you can take advantage of your adults skills to learn consciously from various resources available to you, but also take advantage of the skill we all have from our childhood to absorb languages naturally, you’ll be unstoppable.
If you’re interested in learning a new language, we have combined everything we know from years of language acquisition and research to create an awesome program. Give it a try for free at OUINO.com.
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