The brain’s neuroplasticity has been blamed for giving seniors a hard time to learn new language skills. It is defined as the brain’s ability to form and restructure synaptic connections, mainly in response to learning or injury. While neuroplasticity decreases as we age, a proverb that says, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” may also stop seniors from learning a second language, much less a third one.
The science may be right but the proverb is wrong for the most part. Research on neuroplasticity challenges the assumption that seniors cannot learn a new language. This particular research notes that you can never be too old to learn new tricks. However, the researchers are not denying the fact that learning new things is much harder as a person grows older. This should not discourage seniors from learning Spanish or any other language though.
Albert Costa, a professor of neuroscience in Barcelona’s Universitat Pompeu Fabra, said in an interview with the Guardian that older individuals learning a new language have an advantage over their younger counterparts. This is mainly because older people are armed with larger vocabularies. As a result, they will learn more words that are included in the arsenal of a native speaker.
Although this is advantageous, Costa adds that it is much more difficult for seniors to master accents. The good news is, there are game-like tutorials that can teach males and females ages 6 to 90 or over to speak a new language of their choosing. These games include voiceovers that teach participants how to pronounce certain words.