"You can't teach an old dog new tricks..." - nonsense!
It's a common old-age assumption that you can't change your established behaviors or habits. But in reality, research has shown age doesn't neccessarily factor into your ability to learn new skills. On the contrary, the older you are, the more focused and motivated you are when it comes to your education.
Scientific studies have also shown that your brain can change and form new neural connections thanks to neuroplasticity (the brain's ability to reorganize itself). In a recent research study, the findings overturned this common assumption that the older you are the less you can learn. Several adults learning a new language had brain scans taken before, during, and after their courses and the scans showed improved white matter (white matter is what connects neural cells, so the better connected, the better you can accomplish a cognitive task).
Whether you're relocating, traveling, or simply interested in learning a foreign language, it can seem like a daunting task when you've been out of the classroom for years. Maybe some of your excuses include:
"I started learning Spanish in high school so it didn't stick" or "I haven't practiced French in years so there's no hope I'll learn it again."
Even though you haven't picked up a Spanish vocabulary book in years, your ability to learn a language comes down to your level of investment. So it's time to stop making excuses and to start learning.
Pinpoint Your Motives
Scientists have identified two specific types of motivation. It might feel like finding motivation can be difficult, but research has show you have to truly love something (like traveling, or a certain someone) to trigger those educational desires to learn a language. The types of motivation are:
this is borne out of personal interest.
this comes from the desire to achieve a goal.
So either you have a personal interest in learning a new language or a goal to achieve. By pinpointing this motive, you can narrow down what gets you excited about learning and dedicating to fine-tuning this new skill.
Intrinsic motivation is the more powerful of the two. When you're genuinely interested in learning a language, you will learn quickly and more efficiently. But whatever the reasons — identifying your motivations is crucial to your academic success.
Have you ever been in a situation while traveling where you didn't know the language at all?
You sit down at a restaurant and pick up a menu...ah! Everything is in Spanish. However, the menu has small photos next to each section to help you understand what you want to eat for lunch. The word "papas fritas" is next to a delicious looking plate of fries. With this context, you learned a new word! And kindly ask the server for an order of papas fritas.
This is context-dependent learning and it is one of the most efficient ways to learn a new language. By seeing words and phrases in context with other information, such as a menu with photos, your brain can store the new information with ease thanks to the supporting content. When you work to recall the meaning of words, your brain uses this additional contextual information when the memory was formed.
By using contextual learning, you're helping your brain maximize the rate at which it retrieves and consolidates information. This is why sitting down to read a dictionary isn't the most effective way to learn a new language. Context-dependent learning allows you to avoid these "in one ear and out the other" tendencies.
You can memorize words all day long, but without applying the words and their meanings into real-life situations, your brain will easily forget them in the heat of the moment.
With contextual learning on your side, you can master learning a language at any age. Children use this technique when learning their native tongue, which is why adults can benefit in the same way when learning a foreign language–fast and efficiently.
The Motivation Machine
A Final Note: The key to learning a new skill, no matter how old you are, is self motivation. The first obvious way to get in the zone is to just get started.
You may expect motivation to come out of thin air, but it really comes from hard work and dedication. Second you should set realistic goals that are attainable,create a routine for consistent learning, and don't be too hard on yourself. Reward yourself when you hit your daily goal and remember the reason why you wanted to study a foreign language in the first place. What was it that sparked your interest? What moment inspired you to learn?
Learn A New Language With Newslang
Thanks to Newslang, learning a new language just got a whole lot easier (even if you lack the motivation). It solves the two most common issues that plague language learners of any age — practicing consistently and learning vocabulary in a contextual way. The app combines your news reader and language learning apps into one platform. Learning a new language becomes part of your daily routine so you can practice consistently.
We believe that learning through context is what helps piece the puzzle together–just simply tap words throughout your reading sesh to see the translation!
Download Newslang on iOS today and remember - you're never too old (or young) to learn a language.