Language knowledge is crucial for personal growth in our globalized world, enabling individuals to connect with diverse communities and cultures. From an early age to adulthood, proficiency in a second language is becoming more than desirable. Consequently, studying language learning methods outcomes for various age groups is becoming increasingly important.
Studies suggest that younger learners excel in acquiring a second language, learning faster and with less effort and stress than adolescents and adults. Studies also indicate that children learn pronunciation and morphosyntax way better than other age groups. However, other studies have pointed out that adolescents achieve the best outcomes in language learning because ”their flexibility and simultaneous process of mature development facilitate learning.” Moreover, adults ”outperform children and adolescents in writing and reading skills” as they are more ”motivated, experienced, have both short-term and long-term memories, possess meta-language awareness and common sense.”
Despite internal or external distinctions between learners, we can demonstrate how age is one of the key factors in language learning and how it shapes motivation processes and outcomes for each of the age cohorts.
Early Childhood and Elementary School
Children are often impacted by language-related factors, even if they are not actively learning a new language. They absorb words from songs, stories, and television, and can learn through interactions with bilingual peers. The path to bilingualism may vary for each child, but it is an incredibly valuable skill. Learning a second language opens doors to numerous life-enhancing opportunities, including early academic success, improved reading, listening, writing, math skills, and enhanced social abilities. It broadens perspectives by exploring different language styles, idioms, vocabulary, and cultures, fostering creativity and mental flexibility. Acquiring language skills also promotes empathy, social connections, and shapes one’s character, facilitating connections with diverse communities and fostering a sense of belonging. Studies also point out the health benefits for children that ”show that children who learn a second language are containing attention despite outside stimuli better than children who know only one language.”
Motivation for learning or improving second language skills starts to change during the teenage years. Tasks become more demanding and require a different level of focus for understanding and absorbing a subject. Teenagers enter a transitional period and need to build up their self-confidence and enthusiasm toward further learning. School classes can incorporate popular culture and multimedia, like music, videos, games, and movies, to enhance teenagers’ engagement in learning. Captivating themes ignite adolescents’ motivation to learn a foreign language, spurred by aspirations such as exam success, academic growth, improved communication for travel and social media, and enhanced career opportunities. Pursuing these objectives nurtures friendships, teamwork skills, language proficiency, problem-solving abilities, enriched hobbies, self-identity development, untapped potential, and enhanced mental well-being. Creating a positive, encouraging, and supportive learning environment is crucial for realizing these benefits.
Studies show that adults are, in other areas, even more, capable to soak up new language knowledge than children. Their cognitive and financial abilities, motivation, and discipline are also completely different and so are the final learning advantages. Adults learn new languages for purposes like travel, career advancement, professional communication, writing projects, academics, job opportunities, and relocation. However, some adults also engage in language learning simply for the joy of it. However, their motivation is often directed to a specific purpose. Adults will use other learning techniques to achieve a level of fluency but in the end, it is a rewarding experience, and improvements in other life segments are irreplaceable.
It is never too late to start learning a second language. With more free time on their hands and new life opportunities, retired seniors also get interested in building new skills. This includes learning new languages, which offers them a plethora of cognitive, social, and health benefits. Research has shown that learning a language at an older age improves memory and reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. It increases the ability to multitask, boosts creativity and intellectual activity, and increases social interactions – by joining online learning communities or even reducing travel stress levels.
Learning languages is great for the mind, body, and soul and – an investment for overall happiness and well-being. Children, adolescents, and adults are motivated differently to learn them and benefit by acquiring a variety of skills needed for personal development.
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 Burlbaw Lynn M. and Ozfidan Burhan. ‘’A Literature-Based Approach on Age Factors in SLA: Children, Adolescents, and Adults.’’ In International Education Studies: Vol. 12, No. 10., 2019., p. 27.
 Ibid, 33.