When is the best time in life to learn a foreign language? People of all ages can benefit from learning a new language, of course. But recent studies have revealed two key life phases when language learning has a tremendous impact.
Childhood Learning Languages for Fluency
Language teachers have been saying for years that language learning is easy the younger you are. After testing people of all ages on their English grammar skills, researchers have more specific data to back up that assumption.
The scientists created an English grammar test, posted it on Facebook, and analyzed test results. Of nearly 670,000 people aged 10 to over 70 years old, 246,000 test-takers grew up speaking English. The rest were bilingual or multilingual.
Researchers concluded that those who learned a foreign language early in life could become proficient, even fluent. Up until the teen years, people were still able to learn foreign languages well. Around the age of 18, this natural ability seemed to fade somewhat. While people of all ages can learn language well enough to communicate, it’s rare for someone who learned after 18 to be able to pass as a native speaker.
Language Learning as a Dementia Treatment
Learning a new language may be harder as you get older, but it’s still absolutely worth doing. Consider the 2015 Glasgow program offering language workshops for elderly people. The workshops use a foreign language class as cognitive training to help older people stay mentally active.
Researchers studied how the workshops affected the people who participated. It wasn’t altogether surprising to researchers when the program showed that language learning can help the elderly stave off dementia.
As it turns out, programs like this may be able to delay the onset of dementia for four to five years. That’s longer than any dementia medication available today. The researchers’ ultimate goal is to explore exactly how this insight can be used to create the most effective kind of language learning therapy for the elderly.
Whether you’re young, old, or in between, you can learn a language you’ve never spoken before. You can learn to communicate well enough to manage in another country or community where people don’t speak your native language. If you’re young, you can become fluent more easily. Even if you’re quite old, you might very well put off age-related damage to your brain.
Since language learning isn’t easy at all ages, finding interpreters who know a foreign language well can be a difficult task. Once you find them, keeping them is essential. Contact us at Interpreter Intelligence to find out how you can schedule and manage your interpreters, keep them happy, and rely on them in the coming years.