You CAN Learn A Language At 60 and Older: Scientific Proof!

Are you wondering if you can learn a new language at 60 or older? I researched and found the scientific proof:

According to research, people 60 years or older can learn a new language easily. The large vocabulary helps seniors to learn new words more easily. The slowed-down neurons in the older brain make the learning process longer. Mental and physical exercise nurtures the growth of new brain cells and increases the ability to learn at an older age.

Now you know that learning a new language at 60 or older is possible, let’s dive in deeper. In this article, I share more scientific proof, 5 tips to learn a new language effortlessly, and the benefits and importance of learning at an older age. Let’s get started! 

Scientific Proof You Can Learn A New Language At 60 Or Older

There is a common misconception: learning is hard at an older age.

Perhaps you’re convinced too that learning a new language is impossible for you. And although it is on your bucket list to speak a couple of words of Spanish, French, or another language. You’re discouraged due to previous experiences that made you believe that learning is more difficult compared to when you’re were younger. Perhaps that’s why you’re reading my article right now. Well, I’m here to prove you the opposite.

We all know that learning for kids is easy. They are like sponges, which is very true. Only that doesn’t mean that learning at an older age is impossible. The reason why kids are easy at learning is that they learn every day. And that way of life is different for older people. Especially when we leave college.

As we get older we often stop learning because we dedicate our time elsewhere. We work 8 hours a day, get married, start a family, and have household activities to do every day. Kids spend their whole childhood at school and outside school learning new things and skills. For them, the whole world is filled with new things to discover. And they’re eager to stay interested and motivated to keep learning. This is the key to their success. Learning is easy for them because they keep learning.

According to this research, 60-year-olds and older participants were challenged to learn at least three new skills simultaneously for 3 months. “Learning multiple skills simultaneously increased cognitive abilities in older adults by the midpoint of the intervention, to levels similar to performance in a separate sample of middle-aged adults, 30 years younger.” To sum it up: your brain will function younger when challenged thoroughly enough. Therefore learning becomes easier as you challenge yourself mentally regularly.

Also, according to a study, 60-year-olds often underestimate the power of their brain memory and ability to learn. The lack of confidence keeps them from pursuing learning new things. Then it becomes a downward spiral. Seniors don’t challenge their brains frequently, which will result in learning becoming harder. And then the confidence goes down… etc. Up to the point that you’re convinced that you can’t learn anything after 60.

To make learning easy at 60 or older is to keep learning as you age. Learning rewires the brain and optimizes the brain through a process called myelination, no matter the age. It’s the process where you experience becoming better at a skill with time and practice. A new language is a great way to challenge your brain and as you continue your learning journey you’ll notice it will get easier over time.

How To Easily Learn A New Language At 60 Or Older

1) Use A Language Learning Application

There are many language applications available to help you learn a new language. However, if you truly want to become fluent in a new language, I recommend using the application Busuu. 

Busuu was named the #1 language learning application of 2020. It has over 100 million students worldwide. When you follow a language course with Busuu, you also can complete an official test based on the McGraw-Hill Education standards. These tests allow you to measure your knowledge of a language, and if you like, you can share your certificate for professional use. 

Using an application like Busuu is convenient because you can start learning a language on your own time. You decide your schedule, when, and where you want to start learning. According to this article on Harvard Health Publishing, learning at your own pace benefits the learning process. Besides improving your knowledge, learning new skills, like learning a new language, also gives you a sense of purpose. 

According to the article on Harvard Health Publishing, it is important for older adults that they can interact by doing exercises, taking notes, and completing tasks when they learn something new. That’s exactly how the Busuu learning program is set up. 

The Busuu language courses are developed according to the Common European Framework of Reference, an internationally recognized standard for creating language lessons. You can read more about how their courses are developed here.

The Busuu courses are divided into four stages, from beginner to upper-intermediate. The beginner stage only focuses on learning simple things like saying hello, and ordering something in a shop. When you reached the upper-intermediate stage, you can truly join a discussion in the language. You became a fluent speaker. Sign up for Busuu For Free.

2) Make Use Of Your Learning Skills

Over the years, you probably followed different courses and learned new things. Maybe you went to college before you started your career. Either way, you developed a way of learning new things that work best for you. 

If you want to start learning a new language in your retirement, it is important to focus on these learning skills. For example, if you learn best by watching a video course, follow a language video course first. Or when you’re learning better when reading aloud or doing specific tasks, make sure to focus on that. 

The Busuu application lets you decide what kind of lessons you want to follow. This way, you can first start with the learning exercises that fit you the most. This makes it easier to learn a new language when you are older

3) Use Your Vocubalury Knowledge

Let’s say you want to learn Spanish, one of the most difficult things at the start is understanding sayings and specific words. To make this easier, you can use your knowledge of your native language. It would surprise you how much some words in each language are alike. 

Also, learning a new language benefits your knowledge of your native language. You’ll translate these into your native language by learning new foreign words or sayings. This way your knowledge of both languages will improve! 

4) Read Books In The Foreign Language

When you’ve read more articles on this website, you probably know that I’m from The Netherlands, so my native tongue is Dutch. However, I’m fluent in English and can also speak Spanish. To improve my English, I started reading books in English, which I’m still doing today. It helps me to keep my knowledge of the language up to date. 

If you start reading books in a foreign language, of course, you need to have some knowledge of that language first. But if you understand the basics of a language and start with simple books, it can work great. I even started reading children’s books at first, it may sound silly, but it helped me understand the language much faster! 

I found that the biggest advantage of reading books in a foreign language is that you learn about specific cultural sayings, humor, and communication in that language. 

The Busuu application focuses on reading in each language lesson, and next to reading, they also focus on writing tasks, which helps you improve your knowledge even faster. 

5) Focus On Total Immersion For Learning A Language

When you’re at an older age and retired, there’s a good chance you have enough time to spend a while in a different country. For example, if you want to learn Spanish, you can travel to Spain or a different Spanish-speaking country and stay there for a few months. Not only to travel and explore the country but to truly become fluent in the language. This process is known as total immersion, and it’s one of the best ways to become bilingual. 

Learning to speak and understand a language is one thing you can easily do by using Busuu. It creates perfect knowledge as a start. And with the upper-intermediate level courses, you can still use the application while you immerse yourself by visiting a country to learn the language. 

Total immersion helps you understand the cultural backgrounds in a language much better. When you spent some time with locals, you’ll understand their way of speaking, different dialects and learn more about the country. 

Benefits Of Learning A Language At An Older Age

Many people say that learning a language at an older age is much difficult. However, the opposite is true! Of course, younger people can often adapt easier and learn new things faster, but you’re never too old to learn! It’s even important to keep learning new things for staying fit. Learning new things is related to healthy aging, but later more on that. 

Did you know that learning a new language has many benefits? Even when you’re older. 

For example, learning a new language makes you a better listener because you need to focus harder when speaking in a foreign language. When learning a new language, it’s more difficult to understand the meaning of what someone is saying. It also improves your decision-making skills. Because you’re able to think through your problem in different languages, so you can focus on multiple points of view.

When you’re bilingual, you’ll get a better cultural understanding, and learning new languages increases your social circle because you can connect easier with people from a different cultural background. 

You can read all the important benefits of learning a new language at an older age in my article, 10 Benefits Of Learning A Second Language At An Older Age.

The Importance Of Learning New Things At An Older Age

Learning a new language is related to healthy aging. It has a lot of benefits like we mentioned above. Learning a new language as a senior keeps you busy, improves your social circle, and benefits your brain. 

According to this article on Harvard Health Publishing, you need to train your brain similarly to train your muscles. Exercise is the most important thing for staying fit. We do all kinds of physical exercise for healthy aging, but we also need to focus on brain activity. According to this article, learning new things like learning a new language helps slow down cognitive aging.

However, it’s not enough to simply learn something new. To truly benefit from your brain exercises, you need to get out of your comfort zone. Compare it with physical exercise. You won’t benefit from it if you only do sports once a month. 

So, when you’re learning new things, it’s important to challenge yourself. Learning a new language at an older age is a great challenge at the level that is needed, according to this article on Harvard Health Publishing.  

If you truly want to benefit and maximize your learning efforts at an older age, you need to keep a few things in mind. Experts from Harvard Health Publishing say that older adults learn best when they can interact with the content. Interaction can be things like taking notes, completing tasks, follow video lessons, etcetera. It’s also helpful to find a buddy for your learning process. Giving each other feedback about the process, and helping each other with difficult tasks, speed up the learning. 

When focusing on learning a new language and all the important facts above, as mentioned by the experts of Harvard Health Publishing, the language learning application Busuu is the best learning tool you can use. 

With a Busuu membership, you automatically interact with the content by completing different tasks, following video lessons, and much more. But you also get access to the community where you can connect with other language students. This way, you can easily find a buddy that can help you become more fluent in a language faster. You can sign up for Busuu for free

Kirsten Veldman

I'm Kirsten. In 2017, my husband Léon, and I decided to retire from the rat race to travel the world and work and live location independently. In the last couple of years, I wrote over 200+ articles about retirement and did extensive research to help people prepare, enjoy and celebrate retirement in the best way possible.

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