Are adults better learners than children are?

Many students believe that it's better to learn a language when you're a child. Certainly, kids have more neuroplasticity and their brains are able to construct connections because....well, they're kids. That is what the brains of kids do: build connections to understand things more clearly.

Today, I want to present another point of view to the idea that, if you're an adult, you can't learn English - or learn any skill - properly or efficiently.

Here's a short list of what adults can do that kids can't do.

1. Adults have intrinsic motivation to learn. Many adults like learning for many reasons: it gives them a sense of accomplishment; it helps them build relationships and open up opportunities - or maybe they just like learning because they like learning. This isn't always true with children. There are some kids who do enjoy English (God bless 'em!) but most kids don't think of learning as something that's fun, maybe because they don't see learning as something that will help them in the long term.

2. Adults are able to think critically. Well, most adults, anyway. They can see how things are connected or not connected, how things are related (or not related), they know that you can't just say anything. (Most adults are also aware that you have to say SOMETHING - it's not acceptable to sit there with your mouth closed and not say anything.)

3. Adults are able to visualize connections and structures. Most adults have the ability to see the relationships between words and ideas. They also understand that you can put different things together to create different effects, especially with language. That means that....

4. Adults understand how language can be changed or adapted to get different results. Every adult realizes that you don't use the same kind of language with your boss as you do with your kids. The question here isn't about language - it's about social roles. Kids know what it means to be a kid: they don't have the experience of trying to be different because all they have to do is be a kid, so they don't have to adapt to different situations. Adults have to fill many roles in their lives (with work, friends and family) and they have to change their language depending on what role they are fulfilling at any moment.

5. Adults understand that there is more than one way to do something. Again, most adults can do this; some adults need help seeing this. Since adults have an easier time of setting goals and seeing the steps they need to take to reach a goal, they are usually better about developing techniques to do that. Additionally, if their techniques don't work, they're usually pretty good about finding other ways, techniques and solutions to reach that goal.

So don't despair if you're not a kid any more. Not being a kid does not mean that you will never learn English. As they say in English: With age comes experience.

When you think about what it means to be an effective communicator in English, which of these things are most important for you?

1 comment:

Aly said...

When adult has studied english during ten years (or more) and cannot improve his english...he reaches a point in which think is impossible to learn more and he wonders... How do I learn english and not die trying?

As says Patricia, adults have motivation to learn, they are able to think critically, even they can understand that there is more than one way to do something, etc... but why we find it hard? Maybe we do not use the tools correctly and we do not notice that is a question of time, besides work, work, and work, of course!!!

Before the question... When you think about what it means to be an effective communicator in English, which of these things are most important for you? Ok, I think that the most important is to be able to structure in our brain what we want to say, that is, to be able to visualize connections and structures.

So... we must keep hope alive!!!