Yes, we all know that the older we get, the harder it is for us to learn a language. But I’m not buying this as an excuse. I’ve been studying Italian over the past few years, and though I am, as Bill Holm says, a bit like a drooling child at this stage, it’s still such a wonderful experience. Here’s why it’s never too late to learn another language.
1. People Appreciate the Effort
Even if all you can say is “Bathroom. Where?” people in most countries will open up to you simply because you’re trying. (This, in contrast from the stereotypical American tourist who simply speaks English louder in an effort to be heard). You’d be amazed how well you can bond with complete strangers with a limited vocabulary.
2. It Helps You Let Go of Control
I had such an issue with this speaking French. I thought that since I’d studied the language for more than 10 years, I should be as fluent as a local. And so I wouldn’t ask people to repeat themselves. I’d just guess if I didn’t understand. I had the illusion of being in control.
When I started studying Italian, I realized I would probably never have full mastery of the language, and I made my peace with it. So while it’s frustrating that I can’t relay intelligent commentary in the language, I work with what I’ve got.
3. It Immerses You in a Culture
You can’t study a language without studying the culture. And likely you’re interested in that culture if you’re learning the language. Even the language itself tells you something: the French speak very rapidly. They are an impatient bunch. But Italians speak their language lingeringly. I was told that the slower I spoke, the more fluent I’d sound. I liked a language — and a culture — that would put so much thought into every word, that would savor every moment like a delicious cappucino.
4. It Opens Doors
Begin learning a language, and I guarantee, you’ll start seeing it (or meeting people who speak it) all over the place. Kinda like when you buy a red Fiat and see them everywhere you go all of a sudden. It’s that “like attracts like” law of the Universe. Open that door and good stuff comes through.
5. It’s Good for Your Brain
There’s all kinds of bias against adults learning another language, but the truth is: anything you do to flex your brain is good for it. Consider it brain exercise. Doing so can keep you sharp for years. Who wouldn’t want to invest the effort to reap that kind of benefit?
6. It Spurs You to Travel
I’m amazed that many of the people in my Italian class haven’t been or don’t plan to visit Italy with their newfound language skills! Maybe being armchair travelers and understanding the language is enough for some, but studying Italian is making me crave my upcoming trip there. There’s no better impetus for travel than to have a little bit of language under your belt.