Learning English as an Adult
All you have to do is pay attention to literature, the media, movies, pop culture and the internet to notice that the English language is quickly becoming something of a universal language. Business transactions across borders and over the internet are largely conducted in English. International relations and policy are also commonly carried out in the English language. For these reasons and many others, it is highly beneficial to have at least a somewhat operating knowledge of English. In fact, English is widely taught as a second language in countries all over the world, including but not limited to:
- Middle East
- Latin America
Is it Too Late?
Students all over the world may be studying English as a second language – whether it is a requirement or not, but what about adults? It is common knowledge that it is much easier to learn a language when one is very young and still developing early language skills. In fact, the very best time to pick up any language is actually before five years of age. Does this mean that it is virtually impossible for anyone over the age of 5 (or 10 for that matter) to learn a new language such as English? The answer is very simple – no. It may be a bit more difficult and unnatural for an adult to learn English, but it is definitely not too late. It may require more work, studying and practicing for an adult to truly learn English, but it is by no means impossible.
Factors in Learning
There are many different factors that will influence the level of ease or difficulty each individual will experience when learning English as an adult. Some of these include age, disposition, behavioral attitudes, native language, frequency of practice, etc. Generally speaking, the greater the amount of time that is spent on studying and practicing English, the quicker and more thoroughly the language will be learned. This is true of any foreign language that is studied – not only by adults, but also by youth and children.
Adults Learning English in the U.S.
There are a great number of immigrants, visitors and students in the United States who wish to learn to speak, read and write English. Below are some things that are known about the adult English language student population.
- Native Tongue
The majority of individuals who speak a language other than English at home speak Spanish (60%). The second most prevalent language is Chinese. The remaining eight of the top 10 languages spoken are (in descending order) French, German, Tagalog, Vietnamese, Italian, Korean, and Polish (U.S. Census Bureau, 2003).
- Level of Education
Adult English learners have a wide variety of educational backgrounds, ranging from no education at all to advanced degrees.
- Ability to Speak English
The English speaking ability of adults learning English will typically range from low beginning, with means the individual has limited opportunities to use English outside of class, to high advanced (near native proficiency). Most English language learners enrolled in adult education programs for English are in beginning literacy or beginning ESL classes.
With so many adult students of the English language (in the United States and all over the world) it is easy to see that learning English as an adult is definitely possible. It is very encouraging to see that no matter what age or station in life one is in, it is never too late to learn even a complicated language such as English.