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Learning a new language after 40

Are you considering learning another language at 40+, but are worried that you waited too long to begin? As the old saying goes, it's never too late to learn new things, and you'll be happy to know that this is still a great time in your life to start. There’s no question that learning another language at this age certainly has some unique difficulties in comparison to when you were in school or college (or even a kid), but it is worth it!

There’s still plenty of time for a new language to have a big impact on your personal (and professional) life.


The Adult Brain (Really!)

According to Catherine Snow, Ph.D., Henry Lee Shattuck Professor of Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, “The evidence clearly demonstrates that there is no critical period for second-language learning, no biologically determined constraint on the language-learning capacity that emerges at a particular age, nor any maturational process which requires that older language learners function differently than younger language learners.” In fact, Snow says, “Older learners have advantages. They already know one language (and sometimes more than one) quite well and have practiced with the linguistic capacities that speed up language acquisition. They are typically better at intentional learning: they have developed best study strategies, mnemonic devices, literacy skills, and other resources.”

You may imagine that having an expansive English vocabulary by this point would obstruct learning other languages, but actually, it isn’t the case. A major piece of language acquisition is learning vocabulary, and when your cerebrum is loaded up with information on the vocabulary of one language, it can retain another language a lot more simply.

The Wisdom of Life Experience

At this age, you've probably had various victories and experienced what it’s like to put in hard work towards the goals you want to achieve. This experience can serve as foundational motivation to push you through the challenges you encounter while studying a new language and keep you on track to where you want to be.


The possibility of travel is also a driving factor for learning a language later in life. Speaking even just some of the basics when you visit a new place will make the trip significantly more pleasant. You'll have the option to chat with local people on a closer level and bring a deeper layer to your experience there.

And in the event that you're considering a permanent relocation during or post-career, learning a new language becomes all the more helpful. Through learning a language, you also learn about and develop an understanding of the related culture, and the more you find out about different societies, the more energizing the possibility of moving there will become.

Brain Stimulation

Not only is studying a language a good mental exercise for now, but research is indicating that the moves we make presently may reduce or slow our odds of developing Alzheimer’s or dementia in the future, and one of the best things you can do towards this aim is gain proficiency with an unknown dialect. A study from Edinburgh University found that individuals who were bilingual developed dementia later than individuals who just communicated in one language for the duration of their lives.

Tips to learn at this age:

It’s no surprise that the most effective way to gain proficiency is to practice with native speakers and do it often.

But you are presumably thinking, who would want to talk with a beginner, somebody who can hardly string three words together and commits bunches of errors?

The appropriate response is — another beginner! A language ‘partner in crime’.

This other person is facing similar difficulties to yours — they are attempting to gain proficiency with another language and they need somebody to converse with. So they will be patient as you battle with the language since they know precisely what you are experiencing; you can help each other. And even better if you can find a friend you already share interests with, then you won’t run out of topics to discuss!

Chatting a few times per week either in-person or online will make a big impact on your learning process and confidence-building. If not in-person, video calls are best to see each other’s facial expressions and mouths for pronunciation practice!


Regardless of whether language learning ends up being challenging at this point in your life, the test most likely will be worth it. Much like exercise works the body, exercising your mind by learning another language could help keep you intellectually fit for many of your life’s endeavors.

If you’d like to strengthen your mind, extend your cultural horizons, open your travel opportunities, and help ensure your cerebrum against age-related degeneration, consider starting your adventure with a new language today!

If you want to learn a language online: Spanish Level 1 Course

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