Why age is no barrier to language learning

Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you…

So you’ve added another candle to your birthday cake. And once you’ve finished blowing out the candles the first of many thoughts pop into your head…

Aren’t I past the crucial age of learning? How on earth will I be able to remember all the new vocabulary and understand a new grammar structure. Am I too late to the party?

Thoughts like these and many more are not uncommon to us as we grow in age. However, as believable as they may seem, don’t count yourself out just yet.

While it is biologically true that young children and adolescents have certain advantages to learning a new language there are actually other advantages that are in your favor.


For the greater part of the 20th century most scientists were under the impression that the way your brain developed during your childhood determined your brain structure for the remainder of your life.

However, with advancements in science and technology we now know those past beliefs couldn’t be further from the truth.

Enter neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity, also known as brain plasticity, refers to the lasting change to the brain that occurs throughout an animal’s life course.

According to Neuropsychologia, an international interdisciplinary journal devoted to understanding human cognition and behavior, many aspects of the brain remain changeable (or “plastic”) even into adulthood.

Essentially, no matter how many candles you have on your birthday cake you are just as capable of learning something new regardless of your age.


This ground breaking change in research contrasts greatly with the previous scientific consensus that the brain only develops during a critical period in early childhood, then remains relatively unchangeable (or “static”) thereafter.

Life Experience

While taking on something new may not come as quickly as it used to you have an advantage that no young child or adolescent has.

You have real-life experience of having learned how to learn. Over your life you have learned what techniques work for you and what techniques don’t. You have awareness of what learning strategies help you and which ones are inefficient for you personally.

Lastly, don’t forget that you have self-discipline. As an adult of any age you have life-experience of dedicating yourself to tasks to complete a goal. Whether it has been completing an assignment for school, completing a project for work, or committing to a hobby for pleasure you have proved competent in disciplining yourself to achieve something.

As you can see, believing age is a barrier to learning a new language is just another limiting belief. You can believe whatever you wish but at the end of the day your mindset going in is going to correlate directly with your ultimate success.

So let’s stop doubting ourselves and let’s start believing in ourselves. Your brain is capable of so much more than you know.

And so are you.

2 thoughts on “Why age is no barrier to language learning

  • April 30, 2016 at 10:14 am

    Age will only stop you from learning if you let it. Now that I’m done with school I am taking advantage of the extra time to learn both a new language and to play the guitar.

  • April 21, 2016 at 7:46 pm

    I’m turning 50 this month and I haven’t given up yet. If I can learn so can everyone else.


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