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  1. #1
    Neo
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    Critical window for learning a language

    There is a critical cut-off age for learning a language fluently, according to research.


    If you want to have native-like knowledge of English grammar, for example, you should ideally start before age 10, say the researchers.


    People remain highly skilled learners until 17 or 18, when ability tails off.


    The findings, in the journal Cognition, come from an online grammar test taken by nearly 670,000 people of different ages and nationalities.


    The grammar quiz was posted on Facebook to get enough people to take part.


    Questions tested if participants could determine whether a sentence written in English, such as: "Yesterday John wanted to won the race," was grammatically correct.


    Users were asked their age and how long they had been learning English, and in what setting - had they moved to an English-speaking country, for example?


    About 246,000 of the people who took the test had grown up speaking only English, while the rest were bi- or multilingual.


    The most common native languages (excluding English) were Finnish, Turkish, German, Russian and Hungarian.


    Most of the people who completed the quiz were in their 20s and 30s. The youngest age was about 10 and the oldest late 70s.


    When the researchers analysed the data using a computer model, the best explanation for the findings was that grammar-learning was strongest in childhood, persists into teenage years and then drops at adulthood.


    Learning a language is often said to be easy for children and to get more difficult as we age.


    But late learners can still become proficient, if not seamlessly fluent, say the researchers.


    It is unclear what causes the drop in the optimal learning rate seen at about age 18. The researchers suggest it could be because the brain becomes less changeable or adaptable in adulthood.


    Study co-author Josh Tenenbaum, a professor of brain and cognitive sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US, said: "It's possible that there's a biological change. It's also possible that it's something social or cultural.


    "There's roughly a period of being a minor that goes up to about age 17 or 18 in many societies. After that, you leave your home, maybe you work full time, or you become a specialised university student. All of those might impact your learning rate for any language."


    That doesn't mean learning another language in adulthood is futile.


    Learning another tongue is said to be good for your brain and might even delay the onset of dementia, according to some studies.


    Prof Marilyn Vihman, from the University of York's department of language and linguistic science, said: "The suggestion that you can't reach native-like ability if you don't start early is questionable.


    "Such cases are rare, but they do occur and are documented.


    "There are cases of people in their 20s who learn a new language and can pass as spies.


    "There are two, three or four documented cases like that.


    "I don't think there is a critical age as such, just a plateau that sets in after the teen years for most but not all speakers."


    Dr Danijela Trenkic, also from the University of York, pointed out that the study dealt with only one aspect of language - grammar.


    "You can be an excellent communicator, even if you don't sound like a native speaker or don't get all your sentences grammatically correct."

    Critical window for learning a language - BBC News
    Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "Wow! What a Ride!"

  2. #2
    Thailand Expat david44's Avatar
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    Of course unlike locked in school all day with exam targets etc adults have a few other things to fill their day.

    Working
    Childcare
    Drinking
    Mating
    Garden Car and Kitchen and of course
    Posting online

    Finally by age 60 I guess motivation low unless married into a foreign culture or globetrotting.It is particularly easy for Anglophones as many young people wish to learn it worldwide unlike say French or German
    How much deeper would oceans be without sponges

  3. #3
    Thailand Expat

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    I saw a video several years ago where they got babies and then 7 year olds to try to learn a particular sound in Hindi. The babies were "rewarded" by a picture of a clown on a screen beside them each time a native-speaker Indian said "dhah" and not rewarded when he said "dah" (it's apparently a sound that if not learnt before age 5 can never be discerned). To my ears and the ears of the older children, there was no difference, but the babies quickly learnt when to turn and look at the screen where the clown would appear every time they heard "dhah".

    I do acknowledge that from baby to toddler is the best time to learn a language, but it's not impossible to learn later. I learnt Fijian after age 7, Tuvaluan and a bit of Hindi in my 20's, and now getting there with Thai. If I'm on the phone speaking Tuvaluan, the Tuvaluan on the other end is completely oblivious to the fact that I'm not Tuvaluan...no "foreign" accent at all.
    One of the tricks I use to sound like a native speaker is to pretend to be an actor playing the part of a foreigner. Imagine Peter Sellers or any comedian playing the part of an Indian and putting on the Indian accent to speak English. Speak the Hindi you've learnt in that accent. It might feel like you're mocking the language, but it actually works very well. Speak the Thai you've learnt in the accent you'd use to emulate a Thai speaking English, etc.

  4. #4
    Thailand Expat

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    I couldn't find the above-mentioned vid, but did find this interesting one.

    https://www.ted.com/talks/patricia_k...ge=en#t-103693

  5. #5
    Thailand Expat david44's Avatar
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    Do i need a head wobble with Tuvalunacy


  • #6
    Sukhumvet
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    I find a good motivation would be to find someone who only speaks a foreign language that I actually wish to have a conversation with.

  • #7
    Thailand Expat tomcat's Avatar
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    ...a) a 73-year old friend recently retired to bkk and immediately signed up for Thai language lessons...he's repeated level one twice now: claims nothing is going in...
    ...b) many foreigners I knew in the Gulf couldn't be bothered to learn even a modicum of the local language...what they did use to communicate was Hindi-ized Arabic used by the sub-continentals they dealt with as cleaners and shopkeepers...
    ...c) amazed that the young children of US missionaries I knew in Ethiopia could babble fairly well in Amharic learned from housekeepers...certainly more fluently than I could (at 21) even after 12 weeks of near-total immersion...

    ...so, yes: learning languages effortlessly is for the young...
    Majestically enthroned amid the vulgar herd

  • #8
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    Only 13,000 Tuvaluan speakers in the world as of 2015 - not much of a motivation to learn it.

  • #9
    เกี่ยวข้อง HuangLao's Avatar
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    The best method and tool - immerse oneself into the everyday population of native speakers.

  • #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Davis Knowlton View Post
    Only 13,000 Tuvaluan speakers in the world as of 2015 - not much of a motivation to learn it.
    I'm not surprised at that number, and yep, it's a fairly useless language to learn, but I was married to one and spent a lot of time in the village.
    But it does give me a fair understanding of most Polynesian dialects, which does come in useful in NZ.


    There's another aspect to learning other languages: In learning a 2nd language, it's not only knowledge that you assimilate. Your brain also "expands" or gets "excersise", which is good for overall intelligence.

  • #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by HuangLao View Post
    The best method and tool - immerse oneself into the everyday population of native speakers.
    Like on forums where retard is the local lingo

  • #12
    Thailand Expat AntRobertson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dasher
    Like on forums where retard is the local lingo
    You appear to be fluent in it.

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