What’s The Best Age To Learn A Second Language?

Kem cho!

That means “how are you?” in the Indian language Gujarati.

I understand it fluently but I don’t remember learning it at all.

So what the heck happened?

Hey guys what’s up I’m Sapna here for DNews.

Learning a second language is technically referred to as “second language acquisition”.

That’s because acquisition and learning are not quite the same.

ACQUIRING a second language is a subconscious process but LEARNING a language is a conscious

process based on formal instruction.

Both are important.

In 1967 linguist and neuroscientist Eric Lenneberg popularized the Critical Period Hypothesis.

It’s a theory that proposed the best age range to acquire a new language.

Lenneberg said the critical period was age 2 to 13- that’s around the age you reach


Now, this age range is debated by language experts and today they prefer to call it the

“SENSITIVE period” instead of the “CRITICAL period”.

That’s because it’s not SO CRITICAL that you learn a language during THAT TIME period

only… it’s actually never too late!

BUT research shows there are advantages to starting early and here’s why…

Kids brains are way better than adults when it comes to LEARNING because of their plasticity

- their brains are just better at creating new neural pathways.

It does that through the creation of new SYNAPSES… the connective junctions where one neuron

talks to another using electrical and chemical signals.

Shortly after birth, synapses form at a rate that’s faster than any other time period

in our lives - it’s known as the exuberant period where a young brain can create up to

2 million synapses every second.

The NUMBER of synapses you have peaks between the ages of 4 to 8, but your brain still has

a lot of plasticity until puberty.

THAT is why exposure to language at an early age makes such a big difference.

Now… although Lenneberg’s ‘Critical Period’ hypothesis states that that the

ideal window to acquire language is age 2 to 13, synapses in the brain’s cortex actually

start forming much earlier than that- during the second trimester of pregnancy.

And there’s pretty convincing research that shows language development starts before a

baby’s even born.. so it’s probably never too SOON for a pregnant mother to speak to

her baby.

And If you are past puberty- don’t worry, it’s not too LATE either...

Yea kids brains are more ADAPTABLE and better at making new brain connections but ADULT

brains are better at focusing and better at complex thought processes.

In fact, adults are FASTER at learning a new language.

SO aLthough kids are better at SUBCONSCIOUSLY acquiring a language .. adults may be better

at conscious, systematic, learning.

AND your BRAIN is NOT the only thing that matters.

There are external factors like who’s teaching you the language? and are you around native

speakers of that language.

And there are internal factors like personality.

If you’re outgoing you’re more likely to practice and not be so afraid to make mistakes.

And then there’s motivation - if you enjoy learning a language or if you really want

to communicate with a hot new boyfriend or girlfriend.

It sounds cheesy but studies shows you’ll be more successful!

There is a catch to learning a language as adult.

The research shows you’re probably not gonna nail an authentic matter how hard

you try, you’re going to sound like a foreigner.

But that’s ok because did you know that being bilingual could make you smarter?

Trace and Alice explain in this video

Do you speak a second language?

Or third or 4th?

If so how did you learn it?

And do you have any advice on what worked and what didn’t?

Tell us down in the comments section!

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