Learning new languages develops neural pathways in the brain. Young, old, middle-aged — everyone can benefit both professionally and personally from the challenge of communicating in a new tongue.

 “Children sometimes seem to learn effortlessly, but that’s because they’re working at it full time. … People past childhood do find it hard to get the exact sounds right.”

Barry Gordon, MD, PhD, therapeutic cognitive neuroscience professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

Electronic learning environments come in many forms — and recent research shows that although language-learning apps do improve a user’s oral fluency, practice really does make perfect. The more you use a language, the easier it becomes. Apps like Duolinguo, Babbel, Pimsleur and Mondly offer excellent resources for learners, and those who excel practice speaking, writing, and listening in the real world. Films and television with subtitles available through streaming service like Netflix supplement these apps nicely for comprehension.

“Older learners have advantages. They already know one language (and sometimes more than one) quite well and have practiced with the linguistic capacities that speed language acquisition. They are typically better at intentional learning: They have study strategies, mnemonic devices, literacy skills, and other resources.”

Catherine Snow, PhD, Henry Lee Shattuck Professor of Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education

Speaking and writing, however, can be more of a challenge. Indeed, I am certain my Renaissance Latin skills would be much better had I been able to sit for hours of a summer evening in Perugia flirting with new friends who did not speak any English or French. Colleagues and friends also learning the foreign language are invaluable.

And for more focused improvement on the subject topics most important to you, an experienced tutor is always a good idea 😉