Learning Swedish at the age of 10 was like a fun game in the park! It was a bunch of strange words that suddenly made sense after a bit of repeating and memorizing. And I can still remember the same words. I even was able to sound so authentic in my Stockholm trip a few years back saying "hej" to the tourist guide that I found myself circling around the King's palace with a group of native retirees. Nice paintings - I may have missed out a couple of essential historical details, though. English was another easy ride. Melrose Place and Beverly Hills 90210 (all 80's kids know what I am talking about!) enriched my vocabulary with such words and expressions I have hardly found them useful in business life. But it has been handy when giving feedback at a restaurant or going out with English speaking friends. What about Spanish then? Oh boy. The grammar is just completely against common sense. In high school it suddenly wasn't as easy or motivating to learn a new language any longer. I even tried out German in college and was able to pass the courses (yes, two of them) by adding extra consonants to Swedish words. Smart trick at that time, very little help have I had ever since of that skill.
Is it really possible to learn a new language as an adult? Researchers know for a fact that an adult brain does not acquire new language as children's do. No-one says it's easy but it is not impossible. Language learning capacity diminishes sharply after puberty, researchers say. Adults learn differently. Key is incremental, step-by-step learning. As an adult one already has experience of learning to leverage, this is a benefit.
Just very recently I have caught myself thinking, I should learn Italian. This idea felt especially good in Venice last summer. The Italian host at the Amarone estate made me fall in love with the language. And this was already before the tasting. There is something about the culture and intonation of Italian that makes me want to learn to speak the language. To integrate to the culture the next time I travel there.
So effort matters but I claim, so does passion; if you have a certain interest, hobby or other motivation factor, it will make it easier to spend the hours remembering words, expressions and grammar. It gives the motivation to do all the hard work as an adult to learn the language.
I never liked Spanish wines anyway.If you want to read more about Forbes columnist Keens' thoughts about learning a news language, visit: http://www.forbes.com/2010/07/27/learn-second-language-lifestyle-travel-study.html Useful tips for adult students at http://www.livinglanguage.com/community/discussion/340/too-old-to-learns-research-says-no./p1
Text: Leena Suoninen, a student of Independent Study in English course