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How Does Age Influence the Learning of English?


"I will not succeed," – people say at the age of 35-60 years when they speak about studying English. Can people over 60 successfully learn a foreign language? We decided to find out from teachers whether age affects the learning of English. We also asked them to tell about the youngest and the oldest students they had. Let's find out if there is an option to be too old to learn English. What can be said with complete certainty, is that it is always possible to order a professional essay on

Professor #1

I believe that age of a student does not affect the ability to learn English. But age of a student must influence our teaching methods.

I will give an example from my practice. My youngest student, if I can call him like that, was 2 years old. Rather, I was engaged with his mother 3 times a week for 2 hours, while she was in the decree. The child was with us, and the mother had to cook porridge for him or do something else right during class, because the child started to scream and interfered with us.

I had to entertain him somehow at that time. I began to simply show him surrounding objects and call them in English, give them in his hand. He just looked with interest. The child did not speak at that time. Once I came to them for another lesson, and the mother shared the news: "Our boy started talking!" And his first words were not "Mom", "Dad". The boy, running around the yard, shouted "pen", "pencil", "paper". He started to speak his native language a bit later.

At our school, we are engaged in English with the help of Skype with children from 9 years. But the principle is the same. If they are twirling something in hands during a Skype lesson, playing with a cat, singing songs, dancing, learning poems, then they learn faster. These are moments when you need to ask: "What color is your cat? ", "How old is it? " and everything that have you already taught before. A child begins to answer in English. Children do not need explanations and grammar rules: it tires and distracts from the language itself.

Things are different with adults. I had students of 50 years old at the university and a couple of students of 54 years at our school. They complain that age disturbs them, that it is easier for children to learn, because small pupils pick things up quickly. But if children do it without thinking, then adults need to understand and analyze everything. Therefore, it must be first explained for an adult, for example, that the order of words in an English sentence is the same in all tenses, and now, knowing only Present Simple, Past Simple, he or she can use all other tenses since they are constructed exactly the same way, although words forms are different. It is enough to explain it clearly once and make it clear that they can learn English much faster than children.

In work with adults, long practice of grammatical approach to teaching languages is present rather than communicative one. They encountered it at school, their children did it, and now their grandchildren also do. I had an introductory lesson with a 63-year-old student. I showed him our studying material, and he immediately asked the question: "Where's the grammar? How can I learn English without it? What will I learn?". He has been studying with a teacher offline for one year. That is where everything is clear, there is enough grammar. But he did not succeed, so he turned to us. This is exactly the kind of people who are not afraid of grammar. And teachers need to use this. You explain a certain principle, show logic of constructing a phrase/sentence and work it out in different contexts, tenses, within the framework of diverse communicative situations.

Professor #2

I can confidently answer: "No!" to the question "Does a student's age affect the ability to learn English?". In the last century, it was proved that neurogenesis is present at any age, that is, a person gets new neurons throughout his or her life.

But we must always remember that the brain of each person is unique and the approach to studying a 3-year-old child will undoubtedly differ from that of a 50-year-old man. Children learn better at emotional and unconscious level with the help of games and songs, whereas adults already have a fully developed prefrontal cortex, they can control their attention, analyze and associate information.

Such approaches really work in practice. Some 3-4 years-old children show phenomenal results just learning songs without any reliance on a text, and adults cannot do without grammatical analysis. They need to logically understand how to make long sentences, which words have that function or another and how to make their speech richer. Understanding is given easier and takes less time than memorization. Therefore, it is difficult to work with 12-14 years-old teenagers who are already tired of singing, but analysis and understanding are still difficult for them.

Professor #3

I will gladly share my experience working with students older than 65 years. The absolute majority assumes that "Probably, I am your most adult student". And students are confident in this not only at the age of 70, but even at 60, 50, 40 ... It is worth noting that this is a fairly common misconception: many get down to language at the age of 60+ and 70+.

At the moment, a third of my students are over 50 years old. Their goals are to work in a foreign company, move to the UK, travel, pass an interview at the US Embassy ... Levels are from Elementary to Upper-Intermediate. Yes, there may be doubts at the initial stage, but from my part, I do not see any objective difficulties in perception of information and memorization. The result, as always, depends on efforts made and availability of time for regular classes.

The most adult student with whom I was engaged was 74 years old – he began to learn English at 69. First, he did it independently with textbooks, then with books and films. However, as it usually happens, having an extensive passive vocabulary, he experienced difficulties with speaking, which came to naught after 8-9 months of practice. In addition, my parents are an example of people who began to learn English after 60 years and have mastered it sufficiently for everyday communication.

Of course, there are no incapable people, the whole question is approach to learning, selection of an interesting material, and ... I would say, inspiration! Positive results inspire, and realization that you can do it gives tremendous incentive to continue learning!

Professor #4

I adhere to the opinion that influence of age on the learning process is a stereotype. A child absorbs everything like a sponge, easily learns everything. My youngest "student" was 7 months old. His mother wanted to start teaching the child as early as possible, and so I became a frequent guest in their house. Of course, these were non-standard lessons, they were more like a game and lasted exactly as long as the child was interested, such an "English friend". Is early learning a pledge of perfect language proficiency in the future? It is hard to say. Now this guy is just over four years old, he easily copes with English in the kindergarten, more precisely he already knows what his peers are just beginning to learn, and shows interest in German. And further will be further.

And the oldest student was 54 years old, a surgeon. He successfully mastered the material. It is funny that his manner of studying was childish, he was interested in everything, he took a new grammar as a given, did not look for coincidences with his native language, he chose associations for vocabulary, he tried to memorize words right away in a lesson. It was offline classes in a group where he was surrounded by students aged 22-30. However, he was the most successful student, and studying it was not a burden, despite the fact that he came after a busy work shift. Remembering this student, I think that he has a lively mind, ready, like 30 years ago, to get new knowledge, ready for self-development. I never heard "It is too late", "I had to teach in my student years", "it is easier for young/children" from him. He was on an equal footing with all, and I think he spurred the others with his example.

Of course, in the process of work, a teacher willy-nilly develops his or her own opinion that someone has inclination to languages and someone does not have it. My opinion – all have it! Why then do so many people struggle with English and do not achieve the result? I think there are many different reasons for this. The main reason for failure is your own skepticism about the process, attitude toward failure, as if it were a class with a physics tutor at school and a student thinks before the beginning of a lesson: "It is still not clear".

Regardless of whether you are thinking if it is time to start studying, or have already reached the Intermediate level, I would suggest to be open to everything new and unusual, do not doubt your abilities, apply knowledge gained from the first lesson, and not wait until the end of all levels, when you will magically start to speak. Do not be afraid to make mistakes and sound strange. And most importantly – understand why you are learning English, and be prepared to make your own efforts, because a teacher only gives material and guides you, and it is your business to apply what you have learned. A teacher, in turn, believes in each of students, supports and strives to achieve the result, otherwise, it is uninteresting. Who leaves the game without going through all levels?

Professor #5

I will share my experience working with small students. I had a group of children who were 4 years old. When they came to the class, they looked at me in surprise, and then I realized: they did not understand that they were in class. From the first lesson, we played with them, sang and even danced. Sitting for a long time at the age of 4 is not for anyone. Ten minutes are long for them.

I was pretty tired, because is not so simple to keep their attention and teach at the same time. I noticed that many of them easily learned words, phrases, even sentences were quickly remembered, all because children do not analyze information at the age of 4. They do not divide languages in their native one and English, just repeat what they hear in songs and games, and then they speak.

It also happens that they are capricious, do not want to study, swear with each other, but if you show patience to them, they show the result! Sometimes it happens very unexpectedly. I remember we described animals while talking about their color, size, what this animal could do, even about the nature of the animal. At first, they spoke one or two phrases, and after a few months, they could describe pictures. It is real to speak at that age. I think that you need to be creative, spontaneous and patient.

As for older students, I can recall individual lessons with the student who was then 65 years old, and this woman studied Spanish in parallel with English. She tried very hard, and she could speak well. Here, much depends not only on a teacher, but also on a student. Probably, it is about the specifics of psychology of this age.

All ages are submissive to the language – this is my opinion.

Professor #6

Does age affect learning? To some extent yes, although much depends on a particular person, his or her desire and motivation. I had experience working with very young children (3-4 years), also schoolchildren offline, and now I work with adults via Skype. Of course, it is easier for children to learn everything from scratch, relying on instinctive perception of the language without admixture of experience and ability to analyze. So, for example, I taught children in a certain way, where we did not study individual words, but whole sentences, and children could communicate with each other completely in English, as the learning process resembled the study of the native language.

As for adults, many achieve good results with regular classes and doing homework. My oldest student is 57 years old, she is moving forward very fast, and I am sure that she will achieve good results, although she began already having a base. I had a student with a Beginner level at the same age, but the language was not easy for him, but perhaps it is not because of age. After all, we studied once a week, and, unfortunately, the student did not do his homework. I think that was the reason. Many of my students, thanks to their perseverance and regular attendance, were able to get a new job, move to another country, pass international examinations. Believe in your success and take the risk to start!

Professor #7

Does age affect the ability to learn a foreign language? I think no. Here, motivation and interest of a student in the process and the result is of greater importance. In my practice, the youngest student was 6 years old, and the oldest student – more than 60. And at the moment, I deal with adults at the age of 47, 49 and 60 who clearly understand why they need English, and they are completely interested in learning.

There is an opinion that the ability to remember and the speed of thinking in adulthood is worse than in childhood. On the one hand, this is true, but diligence and motivation often smooth it. That result and that diligence in doing homework, which "old pupils" show, is amazing and, of course, positively affects the result.

Each age group has its own characteristics, which must be taken into account when learning the language. Children need to be carried away and entertained, only so they will perceive information and listen to you. A teenager needs to be interested and you need to find an approach that allows he or she to feel like an adult and a full participant in the process, who is listened and treated as an equal. When working with an adult contingent, one must take into account their employment, life situation and, again, listen. Adult people often say directly how they better perceive information and achieve the best result.

Thus, it can be concluded that age is important, but does not play a decisive role. A method chosen by a teacher and an individual approach are crucial.

My most successful students are mostly adults and very busy people. They usually show better results both in online learning and in lessons that occur offline.

Professor #8

I had experience of teaching children at school. First-graders learn everything quickly enough, very easily remember illustrated and rhymed material in songs. The main thing for them is to preserve interactive, novelty, mobility in a lesson. This is their motivation. Lessons should be fun and interesting. It is unlikely that someone will learn English at the age of 7, because English is needed for life and work. You can come to a class because "Mom said", but in a boring lesson, where something is not clear, and no one specifically explains anything, the mummy's authoritative figure alone will not help.

Problems can begin during adolescence. General load in school, hormonal adjustment and increase in the amount of information, grammar, vocabulary in English lessons can create certain difficulties for a child. Probably, this is age when it is not enough to have motivation "it will be fun in a classroom " or "my mother said". In a lesson, it already happens in different ways, and it is time to understand for yourself whether you want to learn the language, what it is for you and whether you are ready to make efforts. So, age of children affects their learning.

At the moment, I am working via Skype with older students from 25 to 60 years. A huge plus of such a student is that he or she is clearly motivated, that is, each of my students came to study, because he or she wants and needs it. At this age, people work, travel, plan, build a career, change their place of residence and work. They come to an online school, because they are very busy, but they are ready to give some time to what is really needed – English.

I have a student who prepares a rather large homework for each lesson, doing it accurately. It was a surprise for me that at school he often neglected a homework, and generally had low grades in English. He notes with pride that he comes to his senses. He is 30. Maybe age influenced? Another student passed an international exam, having prepared in our lessons. And only then she admitted that she did not like English lessons at school, to put it mildly. And her greatest joy besides the received certificate is that she managed to overcome dislike for English and even liked it.

It turns out that when we graduated from the school or university, went into a big busy life with problems and worries, age can bring us understanding of our goals. Many of my students concentrate better on these goals and achieve a decent level of the language. Age brings its own disadvantages: some complain about the lack of time, workload, health problems, family troubles. Many regret that they did not learn the language before, when they were young and unencumbered with cares.

There are a lot of examples when respected 80-year-old people receive a diploma about the graduation from a university. This once again proves that a human is capable of much, and an obstacle to development is only ourselves. Changing our attitude to life as a whole, we change ourselves, everything around us. Twice a week, I am inspired by the example of my old-aged student, who embarked on the thorny path of mastering English from scratch! I hope, with my help, her path will be interesting and successful.

We hope, now you will have no doubts about the "best age" for learning English. The best age is the one in which you came to the decision to learn English, and no matter when it happened: at 12, 32 or 68. You will succeed, the main thing is to follow your dream, find a good teacher of English and make your dream come true!

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