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Would you like to learn a new language? Then, you should start at the age of 10

Whether you want to speak a foreign language as perfectly as native speakers do, you should start at the age of 10

New studies suggest: if you wish to speak a foreign language without any accent, you should start when you are very young, at least at the age of 10. Of course, there might be exceptions, however, this is exactly what researchers and professors claim. In fact, according to some new studies (some of them led by the University of Boston and published on The Economist), there is a significant drop-off on our ability to learn languages after the age of 17. Therefore, if you were thinking of learning a new language, you should start as soon as possible, as the age affects considerably our linguistic flexibility.

But, why? Some posit that it depends on biological factors: in fact, children brain is extremely pliant. On the other hand, some scientists claim that kids‘ flexibility has nothing to do with better biological predisposition. Strong motivation and ability to communicate are the main factors. Children are able to comprehend the surrondings and not afraid of making mistakes. 

Why do kids learn languages better than adults do?

Scientists mostly agree with the fact that children are particularly predisposed to learning new languages, but they cannot explain the reason. Steven Pinker, psychologist at Harvard University, considers the evolution to be responsible for that. In fact, our language-learning instinct fades as we get older. Other studies suggest that learning new languages stimulates critic thinking, creativity and problem-solving skills, especially on kids. Moreover, the younger you are, the easier the reproduction of sounds is. Consequently, our capability to reproduce the correct pronunciation gets worse and worse as we get older. 

According to a recent study led by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), based on a more than 600 thousand people sample, only those who start learning languages within the first 10 years of life, may ever achieve a native level of knowledge of it.

Benefits for everyone, regardless the age

Learning a new language is a great exercise for sharpening the brain: it requires in fact constant practice  to memorize vocabulary and grammar rules. Moreover, if you speak more than one language, you can easily get a job. However, benefits are not to be found only on the professional side. By learning new languages, we create direct connections to other countries and cultures, and by communicating through them, we benefit in terms of self-esteem and personal satisfaction. Starting during the childhood might be the best choice. Yet, we never get too old for a new language.

 

Germans and English? They are very good, but not all of Germany is Hamburg or Berlin

For many foreigners coming to Germany without any knowledge of the language, it is quite reassuring to know that worst comes to worst they can rely on English. It won’t take long to realize that a lot of Germans speak it very well considering that it is their second language (better than Italians, to pick an example). Concurring to a study released by Education First (EF), Germans belong to the global Top 10 ranking for the best non-native english speakers, establishing themselves at the 9th place out of 72 countries taken into considerations. According to the research the average knowledge of English in Germany reaches the B1 level of the Common European Framework of Reference.

The most diligent Lands

Education First praised the efforts of Germany to better the standards of the last decades, with positive and encouraging results due in particular to the introduction of mandatory English classes in schools. Even Germany could however better its standards and reach a B2 level, just like Holland, which is ranked first. Moreover from the study it has emerged that the level of knowledge of English varies considerably according to regions and gender. The standard levels of knowledge of English are better in the north-western regions, led by Hamburg and soon after followed by Bremen and lower Saxony. Amongst the most english – friendly cities we also find Berlin, whereas the regions that have registered the worst levels of knowledge of the language are those confining with France, which prioritize French as a second mandatory language. The Saarland is in fact the Land that had the worst result.

© EF

Women know better: Regarding gender differences, women have demonstrated to be more fluent in English.

Cover photo © Flickr – Sascha Kohlmann CC BY SA 2.0 Man, Linkin Park, Teddy


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