Is it difficult to learn languages?
Have you ever wondered why babies learn how to say “dada” or “mama” just a few days after being born? However, when you grow up it seems difficult to even retain vocabulary.
Let’s find out the reasons why it is sometimes difficult to learn languages as you grow older.
Language Learning According to Science
There are many different factors that kids learn apart from the neurological aspects of learning. As kids, it is easy to think about learning without stress in life.
Hence, they can focus on a specific subject or language without thinking about prejudices.
Language learning for children is also based on procedural memory which is a long-term memory for performing skills and actions.
Adults have a very different way of picking up another person’s vocabulary. Often, adults tend to over-analyze a word or its origin and end up having a longer time focusing rather than applying the foreign word.
At What Age do our Language Learning Skills Start to Decline?
Language proficiency is categorized into four factors: mainly – reading, writing, speaking, and listening. It is easy to categorize your level of learning if you’re already familiar with reading and writing a foreign language at an early age.
A 2018 study published by the journal, Cognition, states that learning a second language and achieving native-level after turning 10 years old will not be easy.
Additionally, at 18 years old, people start having less time or opportunity to learn new languages due to university or work full-time.
Yet, many scientists still believe that speaking another language as an adult isn’t far from impossible.
It is up to the speaker’s intent and how they can avoid these other issues that will be discussed below.
Learning by Hearing and not Practicing Intently
What most adults tend to do when learning is just to pass through a subject like it’s a pop quiz. In a fast-paced world, many apps and websites try to eliminate why it is difficult to learn languages.
They come in form of short quizzes, videos, flashcards, and other gimmicks.
Hence, many adults tend to read without practicing with a native speaker.
Gamification seems very promising, but, the reward sometimes becomes the focus and not the language learning.
Knowing That the Language is Near Your Mother Tongue
Bilinguals or children born in an interracial family may have it easier to learn a language because they have a different perspective or reference.
However, it might be difficult to dive into a certain language if your mother tongue is very diverse from it. Phonetics, grammar, tone or diction, and even the alphabet are some of the characteristics of a language.
According to language experts, English is morphologically poor, or the word structure of the English language is very bland.
So, the tendency for English speakers to learn a language at a later time can be difficult.
But, don’t let this fact stop you from learning. Many people still become bilinguals after practicing for some time.
Lack of Immersion
Just like swimming, you can’t learn how to swim without immersing yourself in water. Going to the country where you want to learn their culture, traditions, and language will boost the motivation to learn their language.
While this option is not the best for every people learning a language, it may be one of the easiest and fastest ways to learn a language.
So, if you don’t have the opportunity to go to that place, it might be a good alternative to try practicing the language with your family or friends. Try to speak the language the moment you wake up.
Try to repeat the words or make-up sentences from a scenario like daily conversations about food, responsibilities, school, and other relevant topics.
For example, many Kpop (Korean pop) fans tend to watch their favorite groups’ live videos and copy new words even if it takes a while to have those videos translated with subtitles.
Your Mindset can Decide if it is Difficult to Learn Languages
Being under the pressure of trying to acquire a language overnight instead of taking one step at a time will definitely take a toll on your learning process.
On the other end of the spectrum, some people tend to just give up or feel that they always fail which will end up in procrastination.
Therefore, you should tune your mindset to an “I can do it!” approach.
If you tend to push yourself to be perfect in everything you do, you will always feel like a failure with little mistakes.
Is it Really Difficult to Learn Languages?
We believe that it’s easy as long as you set your goals and know the reality of learning. Yes, it can be difficult.
Yes, it can be easy. Any of the factors mentioned above will depend on how intentional you are when learning.
The first step in learning a language, no matter how easy or difficult it is, is to just act on it. We suggest that you try practicing day-to-day conversations with someone close to you and set goals per week.