Tips for learning a language as an adult


When adults and seniors face the need to learn a new language or choose this learning voluntarily, there are many doubts that arise and that can stop the new company or slow down its evolution, if it is finally undertaken.

Learning a language as an adult brings objective advantages , among which stands out a greater awareness of the acculturation process that occurs alongside the acquisition of purely linguistic skills.

Motivation, key to learning a language as an adult

Furthermore, the reasons that drive learning have a great motivational charge.

If learning arises from a need, work or personal, the incentives will be the rewards that can be obtained at these two levels, such as an improvement in the job or being able to have a video call with new family members who speak languages. different.

If learning is undertaken from individual free will, the stimuli are as varied as there may be aspiring polyglots, the most representative being the recommendation to keep the brain active upon reaching maturity or the interest in learning about new cultures through immersion programs. linguistics abroad.

It is undeniable that learning a language as an adult also involves disadvantages, such as the lack of time to dedicate to this new activity, due to professional obligations or personal environment, or the difficulties in learning new knowledge that the individual’s life stage may entail.

Pros and cons of learning as an adult

When the time comes to learn a language as an adult, it is advisable to first question the meaning of this activity to which, to a greater or lesser extent, precious time will be dedicated.

Objectively considering the advantages and disadvantages of learning based on the individual’s personal situation is a prudent starting point, but it is not the only parameter that helps to make a meaningful assessment of the situation.

For example, the training context that is chosen, or whether it is imposed by work or economic issues, is very important. Depending on the specific learning outcomes pursued, the choice of training appropriate to them is decisive.

In person or online?

Learning an adult language in person implies an extra investment of time and money in travel, but it allows you to leave your individual comfort zone to move, physically and psychologically, towards a learning zone that facilitates performance.

Online learning, for its part, offers the convenience of controlled physical space and time savings, but requires the management of digital competence that has not always been acquired in adulthood.

Individual or group?

Active participation in the learning process is vital for it to be meaningful . The stimuli received by peers in the classroom, whether physical or virtual, collaborate in the construction of a more enriching group learning, but they detract from individual work autonomy in situations of time conciliation.

Oral comprehension, reading comprehension and written expression are skills that can be worked on individually, while oral expression and interaction is a skill that requires group work.

During how much time?

Depending on the learning objectives, the duration may vary. Wanting to reach a C2 level for work reasons is not comparable to wanting to communicate with a family member living in another country. Setting small goals helps in both circumstances to maintain long-term motivation when we want to learn a language as an adult.

Should I travel?

Yes. When learning a language as an adult this is, in addition to an incentive, a necessity to understand the language in all its essence. It allows you to develop cultural competence in a stimulating process.

Ten tips to maximize learning

Incorporating languages ​​into our daily lives requires no more effort, almost unconscious, than changing the settings of our devices to:

  1. Use your user interfaces in other languages.
  2. Join multilingual groups on social networks.
  3. Make a shopping list or consult cooking recipes in other languages.
  4. Watch our favorite series in its original version with subtitles in the original language.
  5. Enjoy movies in their original version with audio description in the original language.
  6. Read news, books, digital magazines in other languages…

And with a little more effort, this time conscious, you can look for alternative learning experiences to the formal ones:

  1. Mobile applications exclusively designed for language learning.
  2. Mobile applications with linguistic and cultural games in other languages.
  3. In-person or virtual linguistic exchanges.
  4. Travel to countries where the language is spoken.

It is not impossible to learn a language as an adult. It is about finding the form of learning that best adapts to our situation and our objectives and being realistic with the results we pursue. The accumulated life experience will allow for more intuitive and accurate decision-making to avoid frustration and subsequent abandonment.

Author Bio: Mercedes Enriquez-Aranda is a Professor of Translation and Interpretation at the University of Malaga