Learning a New Language at 50+
There is a common misconception that it is more difficult to learn a new language as we age. This couldn’t be farther from the truth and let’s face it- age is just a number. Although there are some advantages to learning a new language before the age of 20, there are also advantages to learning at an older age. Thanks to technology, learning a new language has been easier than ever, with various language apps and software available.
Here is everything you need to know about learning a new language at 50+
Keeping a Healthy and Young Brain
One of the benefits of learning a new language at an older age is it allows you to exercise your brain. By challenging your brain to learn a language you are promoting cognitive health, which can have significant effects and keep your brain young. For example, becoming bilingual can improve memory, increase one’s attention span, and ability to multi-task. It can also improve a person’s cognitive abilities such as reading and verbal fluency. These functions are particularly important as we age since with time, they tend to decrease.
Perhaps the most interesting correlation between learning a new language and brain health is the delayed onset of dementia. It may seem too good to be true, but research has proven that people who speak two or more languages experienced a later onset of Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, and frontotemporal dementia. It was found in a study by Edinburgh University, that people who are bilingual (or multilingual) tend to develop dementia up to five years later than those who speak only one language. If that’s not enough motivation to learn a new language, then we don’t know what is!
The Advantage of Wisdom
With age comes wisdom, something that is truly priceless. Unlike a child, that hasn’t yet learned the importance of committing in order to succeed, older people know that to see results, one must consistently practice. They have more patience when it comes to learning, and understand that with time, they will see improvements. This is especially important when it comes to learning a new language as it can be frustrating and difficult at times. It takes persistence to learn a new language, but the benefits of being bilingual are worth the hard work and dedication.
Older people also tend to have a longer attention span which can be helpful when studying a new language. Since older people will be able to spend longer amounts of time focused on studying, it is likely they will able to become fluent in the new language much quicker than let’s say an eight-year-old. This is also true because older people usually have more time and fewer distractions which allows them more opportunities to practice a new language.
For example, a teenager may have to attend school throughout the day, then go to football practice, and then in the evening, they want to hang out with their friends. This leaves little time to dedicate to learning a new language, plus they will probably be tired from their busy day, which can make it difficult to focus on studying. This is in comparison to some who is 50+, who may be retired and has more free time on their hands, which they can use to learn a new language.
An Exciting New Hobby
As we age, it can sometimes be difficult to take part in our favourite hobbies due to physical restraints. Perhaps knitting or golfing was once your favourite activity, but due to arthritis, you can no longer move your fingers as freely. Or maybe you love to go on walks, but because of back pain, you can’t walk for as long as you use to. This is all a normal part of life and aging, but that doesn’t mean you have to completely give up on hobbies, you simply just need to find new ones. Learning a new language is the perfect hobby to pick up, as it requires dedication, time, and practice. There are several resources that make learning a new language easy, from videos on the internet to iPad apps. If technology isn’t your thing, consider checking out your local library for language books, or order some from a bookstore.
If you prefer to learn a language in a group setting, this can easily be done by joining a language club. Language clubs are not only an excellent way to improve your language skills but are also a great way to meet people who have a similar interest as you. They offer a supportive environment to learn in and are quite fun! Most people who join language clubs end up socializing with members outside of meetings and create long-lasting friendships. To find a language club near you, reach out to your local library or cultural centre to see what is available. You can also find many language clubs online, that have members from all around the world, some even cater specifically to people over the age of 50. Online language clubs work similarly to in-person ones, except members meet over a virtual video platform.
Another online option, to increase your knowledge of a language is to join an online language forum. Forum’s are essentially a large chatroom that people can converse about the language they are learning. This is the ideal option for people who want the experience of a language club, but who may not feel comfortable communicating over video.
Explore the World
Without a doubt, one of the most exciting things about becoming bilingual (or multilingual) is the ability to practice your skill, and the best way to do that? While travelling of course! Plan a trip to the homeland of the language you are studying and put your skills to use. Travelling is an amazing experience for anyone of any age, but especially great for those over the age of 50. Life gets busy and often people can’t find the time to travel or may not be financially able to. People 50+ may have more time on their hands (thanks to retirement, or their children being grown and independent) which allows them the chance to travel. They may also be in a more stable place financially because of long-term savings.
One common regret of older people is that they never travelled or travelled as much as they would have liked to. Well, now is your chance, and by learning a new language, you have the ultimate excuse to go!
Learn a language with UpAbroad
What better way to learn a new language than by being completely immersed in it. UpAbroad offers language programs specifically for people over the age of 50. This once-in-a-lifetime experience will provide you with everything you need to know about the language and its culture. Usually, the programs run for a duration of two weeks and include 20 language lessons per week plus tons of extracurricular activities.
It’s never too late to become bilingual! No matter your age, you can succeed at learning a new language and reap the many benefits!