Learning a Language as an Older AdultBrandermill Woods independent living angle

Learning a Language as an Older Adult

Friday, December 9, 2022

Hola! Bonjour! Konnichiwa! December is National Learn a Foreign Language Month and if you’ve always wanted to learn a second language then now’s your time. It’s estimated that as much as 43% of the world’s population is bilingual while 17%  are multilingual—meaning they are able to speak more than two languages.

You may have heard that the best time to learn a second language is when you’re young. Children have malleable brains that absorb anything they’re exposed to, including a second language. But just because it’s easiest for the youngsters doesn’t mean you can’t become bilingual in retirement!

In fact, research has found that it’s possible to retrain your brain and learn a foreign language at an older age. With everything from apps to online courses to in-person tutors, there are more opportunities than ever before to pick up a second—or third—language, whether you want a little lingo to get around a foreign country or want to experience the joy of reading literature in a foreign tongue.

Best of all, if you are retired, you finally have time to pursue language learning and can take advantage of all the resources at your disposal!

At Brandermill Woods we take care of all your needs so you can spend time on exciting opportunities such as learning another language. Not only is it fun but learning a new language as an adult comes with a number of benefits. In this post, we’ll be looking at the easiest languages for English speakers to learn, the advantages of bilingualism and giving you resources to get started on learning a second language as an older adult.

What Are the Easiest Languages for English Speakers to Learn?

If you’re looking to learn another language, you can start with the second most spoken language in the US—Spanish. If you choose to tackle Spanish, French, Italian or Portuguese, you will find many similarities among these romance languages, which derive from Latin. English also is greatly influenced from Latin, so many words will sound familiar.

The beautiful thing about language is the way words correlate with meaning. Romance languages sound romantic, with the liberal vowels of a gorgeous Italian aria. English itself is Germanic, a guttural tongue with sharp consonants. If precision is your cup of tea, German or Dutch may be the right one for you.

Then, there are languages far removed from English. For instance, Chinese or Japanese will challenge your intellect but may have practical uses, particularly if you are interested in business and global affairs. Plus, how cool would it be to complement your language learning with some calligraphy lessons to draw the beautiful characters of Mandarin, Cantonese or other East Asian languages?

How long does it take to learn a new language? According to some estimates, roughly 600 hours of study would equip you with general professional proficiency. This may sound like a lot of time, but10 hours a week for a year will get you fluent in no time!

The Advantages of Bilingualism

It’s up to you to decide just how much you’d like to learn and what level of proficiency you hope to achieve. While some may be seeking fluency as close to the native level as possible, others may simply want to know enough to communicate with locals when they travel. 

Regardless of your reasons for learning a new language as an older adult, here are several you can look forward to as a result your efforts: 

1)   Improve your cognition and keep your mind sharp. Many parts of the brain are stimulated when learning a new language in ways not ordinarily done when operating in your native language. Regularly using these parts of the brain serves as exercise which helps to improve your creativity and cognition over time.It can also aid in delaying the onset of conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, two benefits that are especially helpful for older adults. 

2)   Get to know a new culture. By learning a new language, you also expose yourself to all the cultural aspects that come along with it. Courses that take a holistic and practical approach really allow you to immerse yourself in the culture of the countries where that language is spoken by learning all about their recipes, music, movies and more.It’s never too late to learn new things!

3)   Experience greater opportunities for travel. Even better than experiencing a country’s culture from afar is actually traveling there to do it in person.Depending on how adventurous you are, you may not want to travel to a country where you can’t speak the language and interact with locals. Even with basic proficiency, learning a new language gives you a greater level of comfort that will allow you to expand your horizons when it comes to travel.

4)   Enjoy tremendous feelings of accomplishment. Taking on the challenge to learn a language comes with its own set of difficulties. For support, ask other residents on campus to join you so you can learn together and encourage each other.. Learning a language as an older adult because you want to and not because you have to and are bogged down by exams isa fulfilling experience. Once you’ve proven to yourself that it can be done, you’ll feel a great sense of accomplishment and confidence.

How to Learn aSecond Language

Consider any of the following options to start your journey to bilingualism or multilingualism today:  

1) Go for online courses. Many online courses are available and allow you to choose between free or paid options. You can also decide if you want to go for a course with examinations and certifications or one that's simply for fun. Look at the courses available on online learning platforms such as  Udemy, Coursera and edX.

2) In-person classes. Do the necessary research to find  classes nearby for the languages you’d like to learn. In-person classes are great as they are often taught by native speakers and give you an authentic experience. You’d also have the added benefit of interacting with others in the classroom as you learn. 

3) Use language learning apps. If you prefer a more relaxed and self-guided approach then go for language learning apps you can use at your pace. In this case, it’s especially important to have discipline and set aside time each day or at least weekly to learn. Staying consistent and practicing often is one of the best ways to learn and retain a new language. Consider some of the well-known options such as Rosetta Stone, Duolingo, Babbel or Busuu and choose the one that suits you best.

4) Consider a language course on CD. If you visit your local library, there are countless options to learn a new language by listening to a CD 15-30 minutes a day. One popular method is Pimsleur, which offers lessons in everything from Lithuanian to Japanese.

Join Us at Brandermill Woods

Hereat Brandermill Woods, we support you every step of the way in your retirement journey. As a maintenance- and worry-free retirement community, we take care of all your home upkeep and offer everything you need just steps from your front door—giving you plenty of time to take up new hobbies. While language learning is incredibly popular for older adults, you might decide that painting, woodworking, or the banjo is your hobby of choice.

Whether you choose to learn a language or attend the many activities on our social calendar, you’d be joining a community of like-minded individuals who make it all the more meaningful. We would love to offer you a tour and introduce you to some of our happy residents.  Call us at(804) 744-1173 to schedule a tour of our beautiful campus. Until then, adios!Bon voyage! Arrivederci!