How to Learn a Foreign Language as an Adult

Learning a foreign language as an adult can seem like a daunting experience. We are all aware that as a youngster your brain has the ability to learn a second language without necessarily studying it, the process of language acquisition happens much more naturally. However, there are many benefits to learning a language as an adult.

If you’re learning as an adult then you have a specific reason and thus motivation for deciding to learn. This could be for a job, because you’ve relocated to another country, or simply to expand your skill repertoire. Children often fail to see the relevance of language acquisition but adults can comprehend the benefits and thus can help with the process.

Though you might not realize it, your knowledge of your native language is a lot more useful than you think. Understanding the constructions of grammar, for example, the difference between simple past and past perfect, will assist in your comprehension of the language hoping to learn. Cognates are also a common feature of many, at least European, languages. Broadly this is the sa

Australia is supporting Palau to improve the skills of teachers by providing a training course in English as a Second Language. Photo: Erin Magee / DFAT

me vocabulary, spellings, meanings and pronunciations in more than one language. Quite often you’ll find that you already know more than you realize.

Another feature which is useful as an adult is that knowing the reason you are learning a language will assist you in tailoring your learning to achieve your desired outcomes. If you’re learning for the purposes of visiting the country on vacation then focusing on basic grammar and learning general vocabulary should be your focus. However, if you’re learning for business purposes then one should really try and tackle the nuances of the languages and learn how to debate and argue.

This isn’t to say that learning a language as an adult doesn’t come without its difficulties. However, the point is not to be perturbed and put off from learning a language because of the often purported myth that one can’t learn a language when they are passed school leaving age.