“It’s so much harder for adults to learn new languages than for children. Adults can never become fluent!”
No doubt you’ve heard some variation on this and may have even let it discourage you from starting or continuing to learn new languages, but an extensive study offers encouraging new data.
According to the authors of A critical period for second language acquisition: Evidence from 2/3 million English speakers, the average cut-off for learning to near-native proficiency is age 17.4, which is several years later than previously believed. Plus, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible for older learners to obtain near-native proficiency, just less likely than for those who start earlier.
In addition, the data collected for this paper offers inspiring insights into learning languages, including the fact that in some respects, adults are better at learning than children.
For more info, read this excellent article summarizing some of the study’s findings: MIT Scientists prove adults learn language to fluency nearly as well as children
Or take a look at the abstract or complete dataset.