“Learning a new language as an adult is impossible.” I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard that. I truly don’t understand this generalized restriction we have of the human mind. Neuroplasticity! Google it- Your brain is seriously insane and has the ability to just create new thoughts and patterns. It’s not easy, but it’s 100% doable. I’ve researched numerous people who’ve learned languages and most polyglots actually learn languages as an adult because when someone learns a language, they choose the best language learning techniques for themselves.
One of the first times I traveled abroad, I had a tour guide who spoke five languages. I didn’t know the word for someone so linguistically diverse: polyglot. At the time I knew I had a desire to learn languages. The reason I traveled to Spain was to fully immerse myself in the language.
Fun fact: I’ve actually almost failed Spanish more than once.
In seventh grade, my first year attempting to learn another language I was so confused that I truly thought giving up was the answer. I wasn’t great at any other subjects in school so I figured this would be just like that. Somehow, I stuck it through and managed to take Spanish even into my senior year of high school. I was proud of sticking it through for so long. That this was one passion I kept pursuing.
In college, I knew I’d take Spanish to fulfill some type of basic credit but when I realized I could study abroad and complete a minor, I knew it was right. First, I had to conquer that final exam but I was convinced the subjunctive would just consume me whole. I decided to study my hardest and wound up with a B in the class. Not stellar, but not failing either. In Spain I developed a love for travel, culture and language. They placed me in advanced language courses and I remember not thinking I’d be able to keep up. It was great. Learning in only the target language was exactly what I needed. After graduating, my (barely proficient) second language saved employers in meeting state code and motivated me to push past my comfort zones. I realized I can and will do this!
Learning a language is not easy and not something to do to look cool. Most people learn language out of comfort or necessity. I learned it out of desire to understand something different and understand myself more. To be honest, I believe I became a language learner to find confidence in myself. For years I grappled with the idea of becoming a bilingual educator because I never thought my Spanish could improve to the level needed to be fluent. However, after much dedication and some amazing tutors and friends, I finally obtained the score necessary for the bilingual cert. Many years have passed and although I’m still not perfect, I can understand pretty much anything and communicate it as well.
In learning Indonesian, I often have thoughts of “just give up because it’s too hard” and I remember that I felt this way about Spanish at one point. Now, I can use what I know about myself to learn effectively. Using some of my favorite teaching techniques, I learned how to attend to my own needs as a learner. I’ve also learned how to ask for what I need from my tutor. Visuals, time to process and multiple ways to remember the information is absolutely essential for me. I have a desire to know few languages fluently. It seems a bit overzealous when I think about it but then I know, our brain has endless possibilities for learning and making connections when it comes to language. Learning my third language has already been more effective because I know how I learned my second language best. In the future I look forward to connecting inward to learn Hindi and Marathi.
Learning language has given me patience and respect for those who are confronted with the same task with less resources. Knowing I have the abundance of the internet and professional background of language learning gives me perspective. Many people are expected to acquire language without such support. In contrast, I have to give myself patience for where I’m at. I already know so much more than I did 4 months ago. I can’t wait to see how far I’ll get in this journey. The neuroplasticity in my brain is truly limitless and ready to transform and adapt to any language I dedicate my time to.