So I was reading through the comments on this Post and wanted to respond to a few of the thoughts that were posted. First a couple of notes about me I’m a current language learner I’m well into my 30’s and I’ve taken my French from basically zero to conversational in about 9 months with a lot of starts, stops, and hiccups along the way. So I’m far from an expert and I’ll be drawing a lot off other polyglots like Luca, Anthony Lauder, Benny Lewis, Richard Simcott, and Brian Kwong.
The main point of this rant is just to say that you can totally learn a language later in life. I saw a lot of comments lamenting the fact that they never learned a language when they were young and I just wanted to note that it’s totally possible to pick up a language whenever you want to in life. Also there are a lot of people who will dispute the idea that children are better learners anyway. You can reach a really high level of fluency in the language as well.
One of the more interesting comments from the post involved whether French was useful because it wasn’t widely spoken. Although I think that chart is flawed for a few reasons and French is much more useful than you’d think. I’ll still admit that French isn’t the most widely spoken language on the planet but I personally think that learning a language for strictly utilitarian reasons is setting yourself up for failure. Learning a language is a long process I don’t think it’s particularly hard but it does take a long time and if you pick a language just because it has the most speakers I think it’s much harder to reach the language summit whatever that is. Also don’t discount some of the smaller languages. I know people who are learning such rare languages as Kurmanji and Amharic and it’s been really rewarding and awesome for them.
Another quick note. If you’re going by utility you already speak the most useful language to know by far in English. If you’re first language was anything other than English then using utility as a motivating factor would make more sense but if you’re a native English speaker then utility really isn’t as big a deal.
I think the most important thing to do in language learning is to find your motivation. Why do you want to learn the language? I think things like culture, meeting new people, having a significant other who speaks the language, or moving to the country are much better motivators than simply going by the raw numbers of how many people speak a language.
So here’s my method for learning a language your mileage may (will) vary. I personally recommend starting off with a language course of some sort. Assimil, or Teach Yourself are particularly good. Start with the book and work through one lesson a day. I’d honestly just work on doing 30 mins max a day in the beginning. The trick to this is that you have to work at the language every day. This is what Luca calls building a language base. Once you’ve done this for a few months you’ll start to realize that your capacity will grow and you can start adding in other materials like listening to podcasts and the news. Basically you don’t want to burn yourself out in the beginning which is very easy to do.
The other important thing to do from the very beginning is to start speaking if you can. I personally use Italki to find professional teachers for pretty cheap actually but you can find language partners online really easily. Speaking early will do a couple of things it will help you get over the shyness that you may have in using the language with other people it will also help you meet new awesome people that you may never have met if you were to stay in the English bubble.
Anyway tl;dr You can totally learn a language at any age and it’s really not hard it just might take a little while and it’s an awesome experience in the process.
Edited to add my personal Italki link.