For people who have often wondered about the best time to teach your child or otherwise enroll them in a program to learn a new language, a new study might have your back on the matter. The general consensus has been that young children have an easier time learning language than adults because childhood is a critical period for language learning. The following has however proved rather difficult to stamp as fact for lack of proof but this new study has indeed proven through the help of brain scans and innovative statistical methods that our capacity to learn a language diminishes gradually over our lives.
It is both easier and more important for children to become good in a second language they hear spoken around them frequently. The reasons projected are many and varied and include the fact that children are able to exhaust more time and effort to the pursuit of the new knowledge whereas adults have a myriad of competing responsibilities which demand their attention. Children also have a much higher motivation to fit in with peers at their younger ages and as such would push themselves to learn the language. It is also true that adults have more ingrained habits of pronunciation and grammar of first languages and therefore find it harder to shake off the influence, all this meaning that learning gets harder with age.
The researchers posit that the aforementioned details are the overall and gradual advantages of younger learners over older learners but they point to a qualitative difference that sees even good older language learners differing from younger; when it comes to using grammar correctly and consistently.
The older learners may be quite good at utilizing a wide range of vocabulary, using them in the appropriate style and even correctly using complex grammar, but they are seemingly stumped by some simple grammatical rules. The observation of these “pockets” of grammar that advanced older learners continuously fail to use correctly, leads up to the researchers idea of a “critical period”of learning languages which is deemed to last until puberty. During that period, the human brain is specifically sensitive to linguistics input, inclusive of grammar, after the window closes, it becomes harder to internalize language lessons.
For the research, they analyzed the brain activity which was measured by the means of the EEG signal of 29 native speakers and 66 second language learners of the German language when they heard correct German sentences and sentences which contained a grammatical error of agreement. The researchers however point to some limiting factors of their study and call for further evidence to lay the question to rest once and for all but it is still highly advisable to start kids up on language learning forays earlier in life.