I remember years ago a friend of mine travelled to Madeira, Portugal with her young cousin for a month. They went to visit their relatives on the picturesque little island and had a great time. After the four weeks spent completely immersed into the Portuguese way of life they returned to South Africa tanned and full of stories. However, the most remarkable thing was the fact that the four-year-old cousin returned speaking fluent Portuguese! He left Cape Town with but a few words such as thank you and please drummed into him by his mother to make a good impression on the family. Upon his return he was almost more comfortable in Portuguese than in English! My friend on the other hand had only picked up a few phrases here and there.
So what is the ideal age to learn a second language? Should it be as a child, is adulthood too late? According to an article by The Independent, “The familiar mantra that children immersed in a language “soak it up like a sponge”, while adults apparently do not, is not in itself proof of the existence of a critical period for language learning. But it is both easier and more important for children to quickly become good in a second language they hear spoken around them.”
Studies have shown that while children, with a bigger need to fit in, will spend more time learning and perfecting a language, does not necessarily make them better language learners than adults and teens. This based on the fact that adults and teens are already literate in their first language and already possess language learning skills. It seems that pronunciation is the stumbling block for older learners as they are schooled in their first language. Yet it has been found that older learners could well be more efficient students and can thus need less time to improve and upskill themselves and their proficiency.
Once again, as I mentioned in my post about male v female language learning ability I do believe there are many factors such as age and gender that come into play. However, at the end determination, mind set and attitude definitely will make all the difference. Once you have decided that you will master English don’t let the fact that you are a 40-year-old male put you off at all! It can be done.