If you're learning Spanish, you've almost certainly heard stories about children moving abroad and picking up Spanish fluently by just playing with other kids.
A child's ability to effortlessly learn new languages is truly amazing, isn't it?
That same ability may leave you wondering if you're too old to learn Spanish.
While it's true that young minds have distinct advantages when learning languages, don't let yourself believe the common (and incorrect) myth that you can't learn Spanish at any age.
In this post, I'll show you that you can learn Spanish no matter your age. Even better, age brings advantages that can make the language process even faster and more rewarding.
By the time you get to the end of this post, there'll be no holding you back from learning Spanish.
Saying that you're too old to learn Spanish is just another excuse.
Before you argue that you're not making excuses, look seriously at what you're feeling.
Usually, when someone tells me they're too old to learn a language, it's because they're covering up an underlying fear.
You can learn Spanish at any age. In fact, I've got the perfect example for you.
I learned my first new language at age 19. I may have been young, but I was well past childhood. And I'm not the only person to start learning languages later in life.
Let me tell you about my good friend Steve Kaufmann from LingQ. Steve is a fellow polyglot—a person that speaks several languages. In fact, Steve speaks a total of SIXTEEN languages…
…and he's still learning new ones!
The reason I'm telling you about Steve is because he learned half of his sixteen languages after the age of 60.
So no, I don't think there is any age that's too old to learn Spanish.
It's actually very common to learn a new language later in life. Many people find they finally have the time to tackle lifelong goals in retirement.
Learning a new language is often one of those goals.
If you want to travel or retire abroad in retirement, you'll join a growing group of older adults picking up second, third, and even fourth languages!
Let's take a look at how learning Spanish will be different from the process of learning your first language as a child.
Children do have some distinct advantages when it comes to learning languages that come as a result of both their brain development and how they spend their time:
Don't let that list discourage you.
As an adult, you have some advantages of your own!
I'll talk about this again in a bit. But you can probably identify exactly why you want to learn Spanish.
That motivation will be critical throughout the learning process.
It may not be as effortless to learn a language now. But you also have better study strategies than you did as a kid.
Instead of just picking up conversational fluency like many children do, you'll be able to learn highly technical professional language as well if you plan to do business in Spanish.
You already know what works for you…and what doesn't.
That means you won't be wasting time on study strategies that are ineffective for you.
Yes, you may still have school or work taking up large parts of your day. But you are also in total control of your free time as an adult.
You can learn Spanish as quickly or leisurely as you see fit.
As you get better at Spanish, you'll want to start creating an immersive Spanish environment at home.
That means listening to, reading, and watching as much Spanish as possible.
It's so much easier to fill your life with Spanish text and audio when you are older.
If you're reading this article, you already know how to use a phone, tablet, or computer well enough to take advantage of technology when learning Spanish.
Whether you use an online dictionary, download Spanish podcasts, or connect with an online tutor, technology will help you learn Spanish faster.
You can find a list of more advantages you have for learning Spanish as an adult here.
So how should you go about learning Spanish as an adult?
It all comes down to motivation and strategy.
Why do you want to learn Spanish?
Motivation matters. And it's one advantage you have as an adult learning Spanish.
This article about motivation in adult learning brings up some great points about how your motivation will help you master Spanish:
One of the best things you can do as you start your Spanish-learning journey is to identify your reasons for learning Spanish.
Whatever your reason is for wanting to learn Spanish, write it down. Be as specific as you can. That way, you can come back to your reason(s) when you feel discouraged and need a jolt of passion.
If you still find yourself struggling to find the enthusiasm you need, check out this article on motivation.
If you're like most of the adult language learners I know, you plan to learn Spanish with a self-guided course.
There are many Spanish courses and textbooks you can use to learn the basics of the Spanish language.
Although you don't need to enrol in a University Spanish class, I don't recommend you try to do it all on your own.
As you make your plan for learning Spanish, be sure it includes plenty of listening, reading, and speaking Spanish—daily, if possible. Find a Spanish course that includes plenty of stories or find a book and/or podcast of Spanish stories as a supplement.
Doing so will build your vocabulary and let you link the words you're learning to real-life applications.
What about speaking Spanish?
Don't wait until you've mastered the language to start speaking! It may feel awkward to use small words and short sentences at first, but don't let that stop you.
Remember one thing that makes adult language learning better in the first place:
You can push past any embarrassment in order to reach your goal.
If you don't have a Spanish-speaking friend to practice with regularly, consider hiring an online Spanish tutor or speaking partner.
In addition to your regular Spanish speaking practice, keep working through your textbook. Although you should work through the entire book, don't complete every exercise.
If you try and get it all done, you will move too slowly and start to lose momentum.
Earlier, I said you should pick a textbook with plenty of dialogue.
That's because you are going to focus on the dialogue in the textbook instead of trying to memorise all the grammar rules. When you read through the dialogue, aim for 100% comprehension.
Yes, even if that means you need to read each page more than once!
Do you remember the friend I mentioned at the beginning of this post?
Steve was recently interviewed with another polyglot, Shannon Kennedy, about their best language-learning advice.
You might be especially interested in the part of the interview where they talk about age.
Both Kennedy and Kaufmann agree with the idea that motivation and enthusiasm matter so much more than any other aspect of language learning.
What's the main takeaway?
As long as the reason you want to learn Spanish is compelling enough, you can do it at any age!
Do you think age is a barrier to learning Spanish? Or are you motivated to get started no matter what? I'd love to hear your views, and any success stories in the comments.
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