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At What Age Does Our Ability to Learn a New Language Like a Native Speaker Disappear?

Learning a new language

There are many examples of people who pick up a language later in life. Our ability to learn new vocabulary appears to remain constant, but most of us will not be able to master grammar like a native speaker.

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IDEA EXTRACTED FROM:

At What Age Does Our Ability to Learn a New Language Like a Native Speaker Disappear?

At What Age Does Our Ability to Learn a New Language Like a Native Speaker Disappear?

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/at-what-age-does-our-ability-to-learn-a-new-language-like-a-native-speaker-disappear/

scientificamerican.com

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Key Ideas

Learning a second language

Research shows that children are proficient at learning a second language up until the age of 18, roughly ten years later than earlier estimates. It also shows that it is best to start another language by age ten if you want to achieve the grammatical ability of a native speaker.

The decline in language learning

There are three possible reasons why the ability to learn a language decreases at 18.

  • Social changes: At 18, late teens typically graduate high school and may no longer have the time, opportunity or learning environment to study a second language.
  • Interference: The rules of a first language may interfere with the ability to learn a second language.
  • Continuing brain development: Changes in the brain that continue during the late teens and early 20s may make learning harder.

Learning a new language

There are many examples of people who pick up a language later in life. Our ability to learn new vocabulary appears to remain constant, but most of us will not be able to master grammar like a native speaker.

Learning through immersion

Research shows that people who learn via immersion are notably more fluent in a foreign language than those who are learning it in a class. If you have the choice between starting language lessons earlier or learning through immersion later, an immersion environment seems to be better.

SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

The Best Strategy
  • Go to a country that speaks the language.
  • Get a phrasebook and learn a few basic expressions.
  • Commit to only speaking in that language from Day One.
  • Use a ...
  • If You Can’t Travel to Learn

    Pick a friend who also wants to learn the language. Agree to talk in the target language at least once per day or whenever you do talk.

    The friend does not have to be a native speaker. Whenever you are stuck, use a dictionary or Google translate. But, 10% of your time should be speaking with an advanced or native speaker.

    You Can’t Find a Partner

    If you cannot find someone willing to commit to only speaking that language, hire a tutor.

    You can also opt for language exchange with people who want to learn your language.

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    Learning A New Language Fast

    Though it may not seem plausible, basic communication of a new foreign language can be mastered in weeks. Learning a non-native language can be sped up by compiling a script for responding to quer...

    Learning Full Speed

    A will to start and self-confidence is necessary as is having the courage to speak, and not being afraid of making mistakes. The key is to immerse yourself and put your whole being to the task.

    Total immersion necessitates activities like listening to the radio station of the language you are learning, reading and speaking to people.

    Total Immersion

    It is a good idea to master the basic skills first and focus on the grammar later, while asking for feedback and correcting yourself, learning on-the-fly.

    Invest not only your head but your heart in the learning process. Practice makes perfect.

    First words to learn

    In English, just 300 words make up 65% of all written material. We use those words a lot, and that’s the case in every other language as well.

    Use flash cards of the mo...

    Learn cognates

    Cognates are “true friends” of words you recognize from your native language that mean the same thing in another language.

    For instance:

    •  Words like Action, nation, precipitation, solution, frustration, and thousands of other -tion words are spelled exactly the same in French, and you can quickly get used to the different pronunciation. Change that -tion to a -ción and you have the same words in Spanish. Italian is -zione and Portuguese is -ção.
    • Many languages also have words that share a common (Greek/Latin or other) root.
    • Even languages as different as Japanese can have heaps of very familiar vocabulary. 
    Interact in your language daily
    • To hear the language consistently spoken, you can check out TuneIn.com for a vast selection of live-streamed radio from your country of choice. 
    • To watch the language consistently, see what’s trending on Youtube in that country right now. 
    • To read the language consistently, you can find cool blogs and other popular sites on Alexa’s ranking of top sites per country.

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    Learning Slows Down with Age
    Learning Slows Down with Age

    Most aspects of mental processing slow down as we age. While we continue to accumulate knowledge of the world at a slower rate, we gain more experience that increases our wisdom.

    Our minds tend to grow worse

    Researchers disagree in their hypotheses about how our minds tend to get worse with age. What can be observed is the following:

    • Older individuals do struggle more with Stroop tasks, where an automatic habit needs to be overridden by instructions.
    • Older individuals have a harder time with multitasking.
    • Older people find it difficult to bind information that occurs in a combined context. It impacts their ability to remember life events.

    However, older people seem to be better at emotional regulation.

    Cognitive Reserve

    Some people seem to age mostly with minds intact and others notice dramatic slowdowns. The brain appears to have a lot of redundancy built-in - known as cognitive reserve.

    Education seems to have a protective effect on aging, possibly because education contributes to cognitive reserve.

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    Know your motivation

    If you don’t have a good reason to learn a language, you are less likely to stay motivated over the long-run.

    Once you’ve decided on a language, it’s crucial to commit.

    Find a partner

    Finding some kind of partner on your language adventure will push both of you to always try just a little bit harder and stay with it.

    It’s a really great way of actually going about it. You have someone with whom you can speak, and that’s the idea behind learning a new language.

    Talk to yourself

    When you have no one else to speak to, there’s nothing wrong with talking to yourself in a foreign language.

    This can keep new words and phrases fresh in your mind. It also helps build up your confidence for the next time you speak with someone.

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    Learning a foreign language faster
    • Intensity of study trumps length of study;
    • Start with the 100 most common words;
    • Keep practicing in your head. You don't need a teacher or even a conversation partner to practi...
    Listen

    The more you expose yourself to the new language, the sooner you will become familiar with its sounds and structures. Familiarity, in turn, will speed understanding.

    Copy

    Repeating the sounds (out loud or in your head) will give you a feel for the language. Memorize not just words, but sentences and even songs to get the rhythm and intonation of the language. 

    Read

    Read words, sentences, children’s books, newspaper articles. Read as far and near as you can, whether out loud to an audience or quietly to yourself. 

    Seeing the language in print helps you understand word structures. It also anchors the new sounds, and helps them get imprinted in your mind.

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    Make realistic, specific goals

    Language learning is best when broken down into manageable goals that are achievable over a few months.” -- Donavan Whyte

    Aiming to be fluent is not necessarily the best idea. “...

    Remind yourself why you are learning

    “Motivation is usually the first thing to go, especially among students who are teaching themselves.” To keep the momentum going he suggests writing down 10 reasons you are learning a language and sticking it to the front of the file you are using.

    Focus on substance

    When signing up to a particular method or approach, think about the substance behind the style or technology. “Ultimately,” Aaron Ralby says, “the learning takes place inside you rather that outside, regardless of whether it’s a computer or book or a teacher in front of you.

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    Forgetting the First Language

    While our brains are flexible and adaptable as children, we tend to start having more rigid learning and relearning skills as we grow old.

    There have been some extreme cases when the mother t...

    Trauma associated with a Language

    One of the reasons for forgetting a language is the trauma associated with speaking a particular language: The mind recalls the bad experiences while the language is heard or spoken.

    The Switch Mechanism

    Once a person is able to speak two or more languages, the mind has to create a mechanism to switch between those seamlessly.

    Switching a language is not like forgetting, but if there is too much back and forth, the competition starts between the two languages.

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    Translation And Interpretation
    Translation And Interpretation

    They require an ability to be able to understand two or more languages and accurately express the content and information in the other language.

    Translations need not be binary, but sho...

    Source Language and Target Language
    • Source Language: is the original message or content
    • Target Language: is the resulting outcome after the translation or the interpretation.

    Translation and interpretation work well if it is the native language of the translators and it is essential to recognize the cultures of both the source and target languages, in order to fully adopt the content.

    The Difference between Translation and Interpretation

    While both translation and interpretation have the same purpose: making the information or content accessible in another language, there is one major difference.

    Translation is done in a written format, while interpretation is oral. Translators, therefore, are excellent writers, while interpreters have great communication skills.

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