Yes, adults can become fluent


“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.

Author info

Laura K Lawless

Laura is a French expert and Kwiziq's Head of Quality Control. Online educator since '99, Laura is passionate about language, travel, and cooking. She's American by birth and a permanent ex-pat by choice - freelancing made it possible for her to travel extensively and live in several countries before settling permanently in Guadeloupe. Laura is the author of Lawless French, Lawless Spanish, and other websites and books on French, Spanish, Italian, English, and vegetarianism. She spends most of her spare time reading, playing with food, and enjoying water sports.

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