Have you ever sunk your teeth into a delicious, crunchy, piping hot fried chicken from KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) and thought to yourself, “life is good”? Before you ask me what this has to do with learning Spanish, hear me out. Colonel Sanders, the founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken didn’t develop his iconic fried chicken recipe and start achieving business success until he was in his 60s. Here was a man who had a dream and didn’t let any limitations stand in his way – not location, not resources, not failed recipes, not having to learn new techniques, and certainly not age. The question at hand is not “what age is too late to learn Spanish?,” but rather “how can I adapt my strategy to learning a language at different ages?”
Learning Spanish as a child (Age 0-7)
It is commonly agreed that the earlier in life a person can start learning a second language, the better. We come into this world with a heightened neuroplasticity, which refers to the brain’s ability to adapt and reorganize itself in response to learning, experiences, and environmental changes, especially language input. We learn our native language by continually hearing it spoken around us and start to speak by practicing first with noises, then words, then sentences. Check out our online Virtual Language Camp or our in person Language Camps to give your young child a head start on language learning during the time of life when their brain is the most adept for it.
Learning Spanish as an Adolescent (age 8-17)
If my teen didn’t start learning Spanish as a young child, is it too late for them to learn it? Nope, they just need to shift strategies. Instead of relying on their heightened neuroplasticity, they must now rely on new motivations and seek out consistent exposure to the language. Instead of being driven by ‘play’ and ‘fun’ as a child, an adolescent’s motivation to learn Spanish must mature along with them. As a parent, offer your teenager reasons why learning Spanish is important and help them lean into the one that motivates them most. Remind them often of the end goal and support them continually when the going gets tough. In addition, instead of being constantly exposed to Spanish in the household as a baby growing up, adolescents must look for opportunities to surround themselves with this new and unfamiliar language. We suggest the Language Immersion method where students are completely surrounded by the language and are forced to learn as they. Learn about Language Immersion and how Cultural Bytes excels at by clicking Here.
Learning Spanish as an Adult (18 and beyond)
Adolescents are still young enough to form new habits and learn new skills, but what about adults? Is it too late to learn Spanish as an adult? Our answer remains the same – no, it is never too late to learn Spanish. As with adolescents, adults must adapt their language learning strategy by setting realistic goals and overcoming challenges. Our adult brains might be more rigid than the ‘heightened’ neuroplasticity of children, but they also come with the advantage of life experience and greater self control to push through difficulties and challenges. Utilize everything you have learned as an adult relating to overcoming discouragement and the rewards of hard work, and channel it into committing to learn Spanish. By reaffirming your motivations, accepting your limitations, creating realistic goals that you can stick to, and finding the right resources and support group, it’s not IF you will learn Spanish, but WHEN.
Whether you’re 6, 16, or 60, it’s never too late to start learning Spanish, you simply need to readjust your strategy to your current life situation.
“¡Nosotros creemos en ti!” – “We believe in you!”