AE 387: Why Adults Can Learn Languages Faster Than Children

Learn Australian English in this episode of The Aussie English Podcast where I give you my reasons why adults can learn languages faster than children!

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AE 387: Why Adults Can Learn Languages Faster Than Children

What’s going on, guys? I was just woke up. (I’m) sitting on the deck in front of my room here. (I’ll) show you the view. Hopefully, you can see it. That’s Ocean Grove behind me where I’m living at the moment that. But, I thought I would get up and make a little video this morning.

I’ve been wanting to talk about this subject for quite a while, because it’s come up for a long time, whether it was me learning a language, or teaching other people English, and it’s “Can I learn a language as well as a child?”. Okay? “Can I learn as well as a baby?”. ‘Cause I see a lot of people always say, it’s easy for children to learn languages. I’m, you know, 30 years old, 40 years old, 50 years old. How am I ever going to learn a foreign language? I’m… My brain doesn’t work that way anymore. And I feel like a lot of this is just self-sabotage. And I don’t think it’s really true. I don’t think it’s reflected in reality. And I guess I’m just going to ad lib. (I’m) just going to make it up as I go along off the top of my head.

But, I guess firstly, you forget that when a child is born they take, you know, five, six, maybe seven years, before you can have any kind of coherent conversation with them. So, five, six, seven years for you to just be able to talk about what your favourite animal is, what did you do today? Those kinds of mundane and simple conversations. And that’s not to say anything against you know children learning languages. It’s their first language. Of course, that’s how it’s going to be. It’s going to take years and years and years. And you also forget that it takes them, what, 15 hours a day, 15 hours a day, of listening, of you know years of “googoo gaga”. Just making sounds, making it up. A year of just saying individual words. You know, this, that, food, cold, need drink. And then, you know, after that… so it’s taken years just for them to learn these words and the sounds in their mouth, how long does it take for them to string a coherent sentence together, you know, with complicated grammar that describes feelings or talks about the future or talks about the past? It takes a long time for them to learn this, and we forget this. Whereas, you could start a new language tomorrow and probably be ahead of where a lot of these children are, with respect to the complexity of their conversation skills, within a year, right, six months maybe to a year, depending on the language and depending on how hard you work. And that’s probably putting in way less time than these kids. These kids, all they do, as they’re growing up, all they do is listen, try speaking, they’re trying to interact, for years. Every hour of every day years is what they’re working on this. And that’s all they do. They don’t have a job. They don’t have to pay bills. They don’t have to worry about life. They just literally sit at home or they go to school or they go to kindie, to kindergarten, and all they’re doing every single day, all hours of the day, is practising their language skills. And yet, I think the average person, if you were to pick up a language tomorrow, you could surpass that within a year easily, easily.


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So, that is why, I guess, I wanted to talk about this. You guys, you should sort of, I guess, understand the capabilities that you have as foreign language learners, and that you can learn languages to an advanced level compared to children I think way, way, way, more rapidly.

The second sort of thing to talk about there is because also, you already have a software system onto which or over which you can layer the new language. So, you’ve got a reference point. Your first language and then the second language. So, you can already form all of these ideas, you know what you want to say, it’s just a matter of parsing that, you know, taking it from one language and parsing it into another language. So, that’s as well why I think it’s a lot… It’s not… it’s comparing oranges with apples when you compare children and adults.

But yeah. I guess that’s about it. That’s about all I wanted to say. Don’t be disheartened, don’t be disenchanted. You can outlearn children when it comes to language learning. It’s just a matter of how much time you put in and your goals, your goals.

I think too, people worry too much about being grammatically correct. Here’s another point to talk about quickly. Children will, I think from what I’ve read, children will refuse to use vocabulary or grammar that they are uncertain about. So, they don’t go out there making, actively trying to make, a lot of mistakes. They’re going to wait until they fully understand the rules of language, the vocab and what it means, before they start implementing it.

Whereas, this is different from how adults would learn, and how I would encourage English as a second language learner to practice their English, it is to go out and make as many mistakes as possible, because this is going to really give you an advantage. It’s a lot harder if you turn this into a passive process where you’re only going to be using the language you fully understand and not practising it until that point, which is I would imagine how children do it more often than not. They’re not going to start playing around with future tenses and past tenses in the playground, they’re going to wait until they fully understood it in their development before they start actively using it in their vocabulary in their day-to-day language. Whereas, you can go out there right now and start practising and mastering some of these are way, way, way more complicated aspects of a language and conquering it really really quickly.

Anyway. So, I guess, they’re just my thoughts so far. I’ll probably flesh this out and try and talk about it a bit more in the future, because this is sort of somewhat incoherent. I didn’t really have a structure or anything. But tell me what you believe down in the comments. Let me know in a comment. Do you think that you have an advantage as an adult learning a language, a second language, or do you think that, “No, Pete, you’re wrong, and children can definitely learn languages easier and quicker than adults”. Anyway guys. I hope you enjoy this episode and I’ll see you soon.


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