Misconceptions About Adults’ Language Learning

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Misconceptions about adults’ language learning

When adults start taking English lessons in order to learn this language, it is common listen some comments like “you cannot teach an old dog new tricks”. Despite research results show the contrary, many people still believe that adults cannot learn a second language with good proficiency. All these myths related to adults’ language acquisition set a negative effect that in some cases produces that second language learning becomes a wish never reachable. This short essay intent on making clear some misconceptions with relevant findings and bring hope to all those adults, that like me, have established acquire a second language part of their lifelong-learning goals.

The first misinterpretation, that I heard, is that adults do not learn a second language as quickly and easily as children do. It cannot be deny that some aspects of second language acquisition get harder as we age, for example, pronunciation. It is easier for children speak like natives due to the plasticity they still have in their organ of speech which allows them to produce sounds more accurately. But this advantage does not mean that they learn faster than adults. If we consider the language proficiency for a child and an adult, we will realize that a child does not have to learn as much as an adult to achieve communicative competence. A child’s constructions are shorter and simpler that is why they seem to learn more quickly than adults. The general finding to remember is that learning another language is difficult for both children and adults, and it takes time.

Another misattribution widely expressed is that adults do not have the same language aptitude than young learners. According some language researchers children posses a brain make-up which is more conducive to language acquisition. They seem to have a system for language learning that processes information differently than adults. However, this particular characteristic in...
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