By Elena Céspedes Durán – Master Program in English Teaching Student
My mother thinks that 59 is an old age to learn English. Like my mother –and also younger than she-, there are a lot of adults that believe that it is not possible to learn a second language because it is a youth thing. Throughout time, society has sold the idea of learning a second language as younger as you can. Multiples kindergartens and schools offer in their curriculums not only English as a second language but also a third or even a fourth language.
This idea needs to change because the success of learning a second language is not related to a specific age. It is necessary a lot of attitudes and aptitude before label an appropriate age, and those aspects –attitudes and aptitude-, most of the time, are more evident in adulthood. “In some aspects, adults may have some advantages over children” (Wu, Wu, and Le, 2014, p.1132).
Within those aspects that stand out from adults, the motivation, determination, and responsibility are stronger than kids or teenagers. The motivation as the main element allows adults to have a clear objective that is the learning of a second language to communicate ideas, to get a better job, to make a trip to another country, etc. But if there is a goal to achieve, there is the motivation to learn.
Also, most adults attend classes voluntarily and without obligation or insistence from other adults (Wu et al., 2014, p.1134). Middle and old age people know that lessons are not only necessary, but they are enjoyable, and they are going to give their best. Another key aspect is the participation that can provide an adult in a class. They have a lot of experiences and anecdotes to share, which allow them to assume the learning process maturely.
Without hesitation, like any learning experience, adult learners will encounter some challenges. One of these is that they can feel stress when “they are unable to express themselves clearly and correctly in a second language” (Wu et al., 2014, p. 1134), as well, the fear and shame of making mistakes are common. However, with self-esteem, self-confidence, and motivation, those aspects can be minimized (Monticelli, 2017, p. 239). There are other dares to face, like the interference of the first language in the learning of the second language, but also the attitude to work hard is more impulse than the problems. The lack of time because of other duties like house, job, and family are something very usual too. In those cases, the organization and responsibility sense that mature people can have are necessary.
On regards to the learning process, all ages can present different demanding situations, and each of the learners has their personal development. The most important thing is the desire to learn and to do what is necessary during the process of the acquisition of the second language. By taking advantage of technology, experience, and wisdom, is it possible to get that valuable objective without misconceptions and “date of expiration.” It is never too late to learn a second language.
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• Le, H., Wu, R., & Wu, R. (2014). Challenges of Adults in Learning English as a Second Language: Focus on Adult Education in China. Journal of Language Teaching and Research, 5 (5°), pp. 1132-1138. doi:10.4304/jltr.5.5.1132-1138
• Monticelli, V.R. (2017). Learning English in the elderly: an analysis of motivational factors and language learning strategies. Brazilian English Language Teaching Journal, 8 (2°), pp. 234-256, doi: 10.15448/2178-3640.2017.2.28264