Age Is No Barrier to Learning a New Language

Learning a new language may be the most universal bucket list item, but many give up on the dream after a certain age. Popular apprehensions include: Aren’t I too old? Isn’t it much easier to learn in childhood? Am I capable of grasping all the foreign sounds? Fortunately, research has nothing but great news for mature adults.

Just a few decades ago, scientists believed the brain was virtually finished developing after childhood. This would deem learning new skills later in life nearly impossible. However, a study of London taxi drivers in 2000 found the areas of their brains dedicated to spatial memory to be significantly stronger than the general population. Through years of driving, they had altered the makeup of their brains to help them adapt to life on the road.

This led to an explosion of research in neuroplasticity, the capacity of the brain to change and form new neural connections. Data backing the phenomena continued pouring in, leading to a study in 2010 comparing the neuroplasticity of brains in younger and older adults. The results “did not detect any significant age-related difference in plasticity.” So, there you have it. Older brains can learn new skills, too. Need proof? Take a peek at this video of Babbel’s oldest user, 100-year-old Gianni Guaita.

Take a look at our favorite language resources we’ve gathered specifically for you:

Remember that each of these resources is beneficial in its own way. Take your time in looking through them all, and see what works for your budget and schedule. Whether you’re planning a trip abroad, want to have conversations with foreign relatives, or simply want to learn the language of your ancestors, any of these resources can get you there. No matter how old you are, you are more than capable of finally scratching this big-ticket item off your bucket list.

Have you had experience learning languages in old age? How did that experience play out? What advice would you give to those embarking on this journey? Share your trials and successes below!

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