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Old 11-02-2011, 11:57 PM
 
Location: Fairfax
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It's well-known that the ability to naturally pick up a language declines sharply at around puberty. Am I right to assume that different adult age groups have differing levels of ease also? I'm sure it varies individually, but is there an age that one reaches that makes it incredibly hard to learn?

I'm 23 and feel like I can still learn new things easily. However, I haven't pushed myself as far at learning foreign languages as I should have. How long can I reasonably expect to be able to pick up a language with a given amount of effort? (A European language like German, not something incredibly hard like Korean).
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Old 11-03-2011, 06:10 AM
 
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Have you learned the basics of any other foreign language? My daughter took three years of French in HS and was able to pick up Spanish pretty easily in college, although she did sometimes say a french word for a spanish one.
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Old 11-03-2011, 10:22 AM
 
2,447 posts, read 2,672,597 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by decafdave View Post
It's well-known that the ability to naturally pick up a language declines sharply at around puberty. Am I right to assume that different adult age groups have differing levels of ease also? I'm sure it varies individually, but is there an age that one reaches that makes it incredibly hard to learn?

I'm 23 and feel like I can still learn new things easily. However, I haven't pushed myself as far at learning foreign languages as I should have. How long can I reasonably expect to be able to pick up a language with a given amount of effort? (A European language like German, not something incredibly hard like Korean).
Learning a language is difficult for the average working person that isn't immersed in the culture. The key to actually learning the language (not just the grammar and syntax) is surrounding yourself with people who speak the language. If you wanted to learn German, you essentially would have to spend a lot of time with people who speak German.

You have to remember you know English so well because you were raised by people that spoke English your whole life. You have to try to recreate this environment for another language. This is why language classes send students to whatever country's language they are learning. They have to learn to decipher the language from actual locals and learn to live and communicate there.

Here is a general overview on second language acquisition: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second-...ge_acquisition
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Old 11-03-2011, 12:36 PM
 
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Originally Posted by decafdave View Post
It's well-known that the ability to naturally pick up a language declines sharply at around puberty.
It may be well known, but it is more of a widespread assumption than a scientific fact.

There are many factors that influence how quickly someone learns a language, but for an American studying foreign language in a classroom either here or abroad, the key things are persistence and willingness to practice. There is no biology-based deadline for learning a language, after which it will suddenly become more difficult.

Although, perhaps we all tend to have a little more energy and enthusiasm for new things when we are younger. Not to mention after you have a family there isn't much time for that kind of pursuit.
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Old 11-03-2011, 07:36 PM
 
Location: Fairfax
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Originally Posted by toobusytoday View Post
Have you learned the basics of any other foreign language? My daughter took three years of French in HS and was able to pick up Spanish pretty easily in college, although she did sometimes say a french word for a spanish one.
In the past I've dabbled in German and Mandarin, and I speak some Korean having lived there for a year. Off the top of my head I can't remember much Spanish, but after listening to it or reading it, I can remember a lot of vocab since I studied it for 2 years in high school and even some in elementary.

I have some time on my hands now, so when I'm not actively job hunting I'm learning German.
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Old 11-03-2011, 07:40 PM
 
Location: Liberal Coast
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Different people have different abilities in language learning, also. I am usually pretty good at picking up languages, but it's due to the fact that my memory is so good. My husband, who is actually bilingual, is not great at picking up languages.

It does also help to be as immersed in the language as possible. One reason that Spanish has been so easy for me is that I live in a high Spanish-speaking area. I've heard it a lot since I was a little kid.
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Old 11-03-2011, 07:41 PM
 
Location: Fairfax
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Originally Posted by marie5v View Post
It may be well known, but it is more of a widespread assumption than a scientific fact.

There are many factors that influence how quickly someone learns a language, but for an American studying foreign language in a classroom either here or abroad, the key things are persistence and willingness to practice. There is no biology-based deadline for learning a language, after which it will suddenly become more difficult.

Although, perhaps we all tend to have a little more energy and enthusiasm for new things when we are younger. Not to mention after you have a family there isn't much time for that kind of pursuit.
Good points here. I believe that when some older people adopt the "can't teach an old dog new tricks" philosophy, it's more of an issue of them making that choice rather than being limited by their minds. My dad, who is in his 60s, refuses to learn how to fully utilize his mobile phone-not because he can't but he's chosen that incompetency.

It's not that I'm worried it will be much harder to learn a language when I'm 25, but I've been regretting that I haven't buckled down and concentrated on one language in the past when I was still mentally developing, and perhaps more "sponge-like".
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Old 11-03-2011, 07:45 PM
 
Location: Liberal Coast
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Originally Posted by decafdave View Post
Good points here. I believe that when some older people adopt the "can't teach an old dog new tricks" philosophy, it's more of an issue of them making that choice rather than being limited by their minds. My dad, who is in his 60s, refuses to learn how to fully utilize his mobile phone-not because he can't but he's chosen that incompetency.

It's not that I'm worried it will be much harder to learn a language when I'm 25, but I've been regretting that I haven't buckled down and concentrated on one language in the past when I was still physically developing, and perhaps more "sponge-like".
In order to have done in while being considered "sponge-like" in regards to language learning, it would not really have been your choice. That phrase is usually used to refer to children before reaching about age six. Pre-age six is supposed to be the time it's really easy for kids to learn a language.
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Old 11-03-2011, 07:49 PM
 
Location: Eastern Washington
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Originally Posted by decafdave View Post
In the past I've dabbled in German and Mandarin, and I speak some Korean having lived there for a year. Off the top of my head I can't remember much Spanish, but after listening to it or reading it, I can remember a lot of vocab since I studied it for 2 years in high school and even some in elementary.

I have some time on my hands now, so when I'm not actively job hunting I'm learning German.
Interesting situation. I have always heard that learning one's 2nd language as an adult will "cost" you the most in terms of effort, and that #3, 4, etc. will come easier.

But there you are with some proficiency in 2 Oriental languages, learning German. I have heard that either German or Spanish is the easiest to learn for a native English speaker. I am not sure how much the Oriental languages will help you beyond just already having your mind primed to have more than one word for a given concept.

I would think around DC you could find lessons, IIRC some government agencies have free or low-cost language lessons.

Have been studying Russian for 15 years. I hope to pick up German easier one day, it seems to me to be sort of "between" English and Russian logically.

In any case, if it gets harder as you get older, maybe it does and maybe it does not, but I don't see it getting any easier than it will be for you now.
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Old 11-04-2011, 08:40 PM
 
Location: Fairfax
2,880 posts, read 6,158,630 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by M3 Mitch View Post
Interesting situation. I have always heard that learning one's 2nd language as an adult will "cost" you the most in terms of effort, and that #3, 4, etc. will come easier.

But there you are with some proficiency in 2 Oriental languages, learning German. I have heard that either German or Spanish is the easiest to learn for a native English speaker. I am not sure how much the Oriental languages will help you beyond just already having your mind primed to have more than one word for a given concept.

I would think around DC you could find lessons, IIRC some government agencies have free or low-cost language lessons.

Have been studying Russian for 15 years. I hope to pick up German easier one day, it seems to me to be sort of "between" English and Russian logically.

In any case, if it gets harder as you get older, maybe it does and maybe it does not, but I don't see it getting any easier than it will be for you now.
I learned a fair bit of Mandarin Chinese first as I lived in Shanghai for a summer and even had a tutor. So when I was trying to speak Korean, many times the Chinese translation would jump to mind instead. Both languages are so radically different than English that they compete in my mind!

This doesn't seem to be an issue at all with German, since IMO German is the closest language to English. I believe English came from Old German.

I'd love to take some free or low cost German lessons. I haven't expecting much except for institutions like Goethe.

How fluent are you in Russian? I hear the grammar is quite difficult but learning the Cyrillic alphabet just takes a little effort?
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