Whether you want to speak a foreign language as perfectly as native speakers do, you should start at the age of 10
New studies suggest: if you wish to speak a foreign language without any accent, you should start when you are very young, at least at the age of 10. Of course, there might be exceptions, however, this is exactly what researchers and professors claim. In fact, according to some new studies (some of them led by the University of Boston and published on The Economist), there is a significant drop-off on our ability to learn languages after the age of 17. Therefore, if you were thinking of learning a new language, you should start as soon as possible, as the age affects considerably our linguistic flexibility.
But, why? Some posit that it depends on biological factors: in fact, children brain is extremely pliant. On the other hand, some scientists claim that kids’ flexibility has nothing to do with better biological predisposition. Strong motivation and ability to communicate are the main factors. Children are able to comprehend the surrondings and not afraid of making mistakes.
Why do kids learn languages better than adults do?
Scientists mostly agree with the fact that children are particularly predisposed to learning new languages, but they cannot explain the reason. Steven Pinker, psychologist at Harvard University, considers the evolution to be responsible for that. In fact, our language-learning instinct fades as we get older. Other studies suggest that learning new languages stimulates critic thinking, creativity and problem-solving skills, especially on kids. Moreover, the younger you are, the easier the reproduction of sounds is. Consequently, our capability to reproduce the correct pronunciation gets worse and worse as we get older.
According to a recent study led by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), based on a more than 600 thousand people sample, only those who start learning languages within the first 10 years of life, may ever achieve a native level of knowledge of it.
Benefits for everyone, regardless the age
Learning a new language is a great exercise for sharpening the brain: it requires in fact constant practice to memorize vocabulary and grammar rules. Moreover, if you speak more than one language, you can easily get a job. However, benefits are not to be found only on the professional side. By learning new languages, we create direct connections to other countries and cultures, and by communicating through them, we benefit in terms of self-esteem and personal satisfaction. Starting during the childhood might be the best choice. Yet, we never get too old for a new language.