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For a long time, scientists believed that the brain was incapable of repairing itself after sustaining damage. A few decades ago, studies began to disprove these beliefs and instead show that the brain is a powerful organ capable of responding and adapting to new stimuli. This ability is known as neuroplasticity.
Despite what’s known about neuroplasticity, there are still many misconceptions about the abilities of the human brain. This is especially true when it comes to learning languages. You might have heard people say that language is best learned during childhood, and that adults beyond the age of fifty stand no chance of gaining fluency. If so, know that these statements are false. People have a tendency to pass ideas around without confirming their accuracy, and if you listen, you might miss out on the amazing experience of learning a foreign language later in life.
Learn a Language in Your Fifties: It’s Never Too Late to Get Started
There’s some truth to what the naysayers are telling you. Neuroplasticity does decrease with age, and learning a language in your fifties might prove to be more challenging than learning it in elementary school. However, there is more to the story. While you might be slightly less sharp than you used to be, you also have strengths that young people do not.
1. An Expanded Vocabulary
You might think that having a broad English vocabulary would hinder learning foreign languages, but that isn’t the case. A big part of language learning is understanding vocabulary, and when your brain is filled with a knowledge of the vocabulary of one language, it picks up on another language much easier. That said, older adults might have a harder time grasping the accent and pronunciation of the new language compared to young children.
2. A Platform of Success
At your age, you’ve likely had a number of successes, from landing your dream job to completing your college degree. Unlike a younger person, you have the confidence to know you can succeed. You also know that the best things in life don’t come easy, and during the rough moments of language learning, you are more likely to commit to seeing the process through rather than giving up.
3. A World with Fewer Distractions
Most adults who are over the age of fifty have given up on trying to impress others. Unlike some of your younger friends and family members, you don’t spend your time obsessing over what’s happening on social media or worrying about things you can’t control. You know yourself pretty well by now, and you’ve likely grown bored with many of the distractions that plague the minds of young people, instead choosing to focus more of your energy on the interests you’re passionate about. For that reason, this is an excellent phase of your life to begin learning a language.
4. A Reason to Travel
Everyone takes a different path in life, but by the fifties, most people are beginning to think about their goals for retirement. It’s also true that by this phase of life, most are beyond raising children, and they, therefore, have more funds to devote toward travel and leisure.
If you’ve always wanted to see the world, you’ll have plenty of motivation to learn foreign languages. Even as much as a basic understanding of a language of your chosen country will make visiting there much more enjoyable. You’ll be able to converse with the locals when visiting Paris or Barcelona on a more intimate level and have an overall better experience.
If you’ve never considered travel during retirement, it’s possible that your efforts to learn foreign languages will inspire you. Through learning a language, you also pick up on other aspects of the associated culture, and the more you learn about other cultures, the more exciting the prospect of travel will seem.
Learning Foreign Languages Later in Life: Keeping the Brain Young
Even if language learning does prove to be more difficult at your age, the challenge might be a good thing. Much like exercise challenges the body, putting your brain to the test by learning a new language could help keep you mentally young and fit.
The threat of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia is frightening for most middle-aged adults. Nothing would be scarier than losing control of your own mind, but luckily, research is showing that the actions we take now might lessen our chances of developing one of these terrible conditions. One of the most effective things you can do is learn a foreign language. Research from Edinburgh University found that people who were bilingual developed dementia later than people who only spoke one language throughout their lives.
If you’re ready to expand your horizons, deepen your connection to the world around you, and help protect your brain against age-related degeneration, consider beginning your journey with foreign language learning today.