Is it true that learning a new language is harder as an adult?

 30 November, 2021
 Lingo School of Knowledge
Is it true that learning a new language is harder as an adult?

If you have been hooked on Netflix at any period of time, then there is a great chance that you have stumbled upon a blockbuster movie or TV series that uses a language different from yours.

While subtitles and dubbing does the job of translating the language, nothing beats the experience of enjoying the film in its raw entirety - this means understanding the language in use too.

Besides, subtitles and dubbing may not be the most accurate sometimes, considering how language is often dependent on context and subject to interpretation.

Learning languages to watch Netflix with captions

Photo from Reddit

But beyond watching your favourite show, learning a new language as an adult comes with a myriad of benefits.

But, wait! Isn’t learning a new language harder for adults?

Newsflash: yes, learning a new language is harder for adults in comparison to children. This fact is backed up by studies[1] done by language experts. Now, before you get discouraged, try to see it in this light: it does not entirely mean that adults cannot tackle the challenge that picking up a new language can bring. It just goes to show that adults and children have different capacities when it comes to learning a language other than their native tongue. Just because it’s tougher doesn’t mean it’s impossible!

Why is it harder for adults to learn a new language?

A person’s ability to learn things all depends on the brain. Mastering a language is done best at an early age when our brains are still in development.

How young?

Research[2] shows that the brain’s ability to learn new languages declines beyond the age of 18. As we get older, the languages we learned and used extensively become a permanent structure imprinted inside our brains.

Another study [3] found out that language learning for adults is harder because our fully developed cognitive skills get in the way. It may be a breeze to memorise vocabulary and phrases at first, but the true test in turning into an expert in a specific language happens when one begins to study morphology, which covers word structures and grammar use.

When children learn a new language, they’re better at absorbing certain tricky elements and nuances, such as past participles and complicated verb tenses. Adults, on the other hand, have trouble picking up these nuances due to our highly developed prefrontal cortex.

Simply put, our ability to analyse too much information at once actually interferes with picking up certain elements of language.

Should adults give up on learning a new language?

Learning a new language may be hard, but when you succeed in doing so you will be surprised to reap its numerous benefits. Here are some tips on how to get better at mastering a new language:

1. Enroll in an online language course

There are several ways you can pick up a new language these days - apps, at home-learning programs and the like. However, we recommend choosing a school that offers language courses taught by native speakers.

By signing up for a course, you can be assured that you are getting quality knowledge as all their instructors are highly trained professionals. Learning materials are readily provided, so you do not have to worry about what type of books or resources are best to use. All you need to have is a computer, a headset, and an internet connection and you’re set!

At Lingo, our online classes which span over 20 languages can be customised according to your preference. If you feel like you learn better in a 1-on-1 setting, then a private class can be arranged for you. Group classes are conducted in small numbers to ensure that each student learns effectively and is given an equal chance to practice speaking the language in class. Lessons can even be recorded for learners to review after!

Proficiency is the key to learning a new language. Your level of proficiency can be gauged through official language exams that you can take. Language schools can help you prepare for these tests. Once you have successfully passed, a certification showing the level of your language mastery is issued.

Learning new languages with Lingo School of Knowledge

2. Practice makes perfect

It may sound cliché, but this saying is true: perfecting the use of a language involves a lot of practice. If you have enrolled in a language course, remember that your learning does not stop after the lesson ends. Carve out a dedicated time to memorise vocabulary and review what you have learned in class.

As you practice consistently, you will be surprised to see improvements with your pronunciation and vocabulary use. You can also download language apps, like Babbel and Memrise, to aid you in your practice or watch foreign films and turn off the subtitles or dubbing. And for social butterflies, why not step out and make new friends with foreigners that speak the language you are learning?

3. Do not be afraid to make mistakes

Some people devote time to learn a language, but fail to use it efficiently because they are fearful of making mistakes. Mispronounced a word? Used a vocabulary the wrong way? You can always turn this crisis into an opportunity! Counter a mistake by taking note of it and applying your learning correctly the next time around. Mistakes are always a part of learning, so do not shy away from them!

We hope that this article has convinced you to not throw in the towel on learning a new language even though the task can be harder as an adult. To make your learning experience easier and worthwhile, check out the language courses we offer. We’re more than excited to help you achieve mastery of your new language!


1. Hartshorne, Joshua K., et al. “A critical period for second language acquisition: Evidence from 2/3 million English speakers.” Cognition, vol. 177, no. August, 2018, pp. 263-277. Science Direct,

2. Ducharme, Jamie. “Why It's So Hard to Learn Another Language After Childhood.” Time Magazine, 2 May 2018, Accessed 21 November 2021.

3. Trafton, Anne. “Try, try again? Study says no.” MIT News, 21 July 2014, Accessed 21 November 2021.