Do Children Learn Languages Better than Adults?

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The term “learn like a kid” appeared numerous times as I browsed through several language-learning apps. It’s a view that is nearly widely held and is taken for granted since we have heard grownups express it so often. Many people who were raised only knowing one language regret not having the opportunity to expand their horizons. They provide the impression that learning, whether in a traditional classroom setting or via a language app, is simple for kids. To that end, I questioned whether or not this was actually happening.

Given how widely held this view is, it must be correct, right? If this were the case, then why do most people pick up a new language with ease and become fluent in only a few months, whereas children don’t become fully proficient in their native tongue until they’re almost seven?

Despite the fact that statistics and science show this to be true, at least for the most part, there is still a great deal more to consider. So, we want to know if it is easy for grownups to pick up new information. Let’s take a look at some of the ecological and psychological considerations offered to shed light on this misconception.

Children learn differently than adults, NOT easier.

I was reading up on the topic and came upon a case study conducted by Dr. Paul Thompson and his UCLA colleagues. To illustrate his point, he used a case study to talk about the ‘deep motor area’ of the brain, often known as the ‘Unconscious side,’ and how it is used by youngsters. This region of the brain is responsible for the automatic, routine tasks we perform on a daily basis, such as brushing our hair, putting on our shoes, etc. Kids, it seems, pick up a new tongue with little effort. Many are coming to the conclusion that it’s pointless to try learning a new language once the brain has rewired the neural pathways it uses to do so.

On the other hand, as we become older, our awareness expands and we make a conscious attempt to acquire new languages. The decline in brain plasticity that comes with advancing age contributes to the slowed rate of learning. But learning is possible for humans of any age. We are capable of sophisticated thought. Grammar analysis and direct instruction may be necessary for adults to acquire a second language effectively.

Psychological Factors & Limitations

Children have an uninhibited spirit that makes them eager to take on new experiences and makes them less likely to second-guess their actions. However, as we mature, we learn to take notice of our immediate context. We have a negative outlook on making mistakes despite our ability to learn new and difficult material.

Adults’ approaches to language study differ drastically from those of their younger counterparts, having been shaped to conform to the pedagogy favoured in formal education settings. When it comes down to it, what kids really want to do is find a way to communicate with one another and have fun with their peers.

The failure to correct adults for grammatical faults frequently undermines their learning attempts. Unlike when dealing with a toddler, we don’t think twice before correcting an adult.

However, there is still hope for adults who want to learn a new language. As an adult, you can still mimic the way infants acquire a language by engaging in imaginative play and casual conversation in your target tongue.

Adults who have attempted to learn a new language before go through a process of trial and error that makes them adept, proactive, and sometimes even bold users of their target language in any and all situations.

The Pre-Existing Language Knowledge:

The brain is like a suitcase in that the more you pack into it, the less room there is for other treasures. The norms, syntax, punctuation, and interpretation of phrases of the first language are ingrained in the mind of an adult who begins learning a second language. The framework for learning a second language is the same as the first.

Despite the ease with which this can be accomplished, it isn’t always successful. There can be impediments between the learning processes of closely related languages. Take the language Hungarian as an example. It’s surprisingly difficult for native English speakers to pick up. Many of its grammatical and phonetic rules are particularly difficult to master. The 14 vowels in the Hungarian language all sound slightly different from one another. Hungarian consonant clusters are pronounced differently from English ones. Examples include pronouncing “sz” as “s” and “s” as “sh.”

Conventions in Language Use:

A child is not expected to learn as much as an adult. A child’s linguistic proficiency is measured in relation to that of another child, while adults are expected to have a more advanced command of the language they use. The standards are totally unique.

Smaller and more easily understood words are preferred by children. Conversations between adults are more difficult. Adults have more in-depth, wide-ranging conversations.

An adult’s obligations are greater than a child’s. It can seem like there’s no way adults can devote time to studying a new language after a long day at work, especially when that language has a grammar system that spans the galaxy. Young people view education as a means of social interaction and play. Children are free to explore and experiment without limits or reluctance, but adults face a wide range of challenges and doubts that hinder their growth as learners.

Exactly what do kids have that grownups don’t?

There is a lot to consider about this idea. One day on the way to work, I figured it out. I wished I spoke my home tongue better as I rode in a rickshaw and carried on a conversation with the driver (he, of course, in fluent Marathi, and I in a jumbled combination of Hindi and Marathi). Being raised in a multilingual environment, English has always served as the primary medium of communication. I had never thought about the fact that a child learning a language already has greater exposure to the language than an adult learning a new one until this moment.

Think about how much easier it would be for an adult to become fluent if they could have the same kind of exposure to the language that youngsters do, but on a much more consistent basis over the course of years.

It’s a fact that people of all ages benefit most from being immersed in a lively setting when trying to pick up a new language. In particular, going to a foreign nation and setting up a setup that replicates many of the favourable circumstances that children often find themselves in can greatly accelerate one’s acquisition of the target language.

Which language do you want to become fluent in the most? What language do you find the most interesting?

Write your thoughts down below!

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