It’s Never Too Late … Learn a Foreign Language

Getty Images

As you age, it becomes increasingly difficult to learn another language. Yet, as a result of the Internet, advancing software and new techniques in language instruction, the opportunity for each of us to learn a language at 45-plus is brighter than ever.

Scientists have affirmed that learning a new language actually increases your intelligence. Studies at both Newcastle University and York University in the U.K. found that becoming proficient in a second language aids in training the brain, thinking and perceptions. Learning a second language improves your knowledge of your original language concurrently, freeing your mind from linguistic constraints that prevent you from approaching words in certain ways.

Now, in its 21st year and offering instruction in 30 languages, Rosetta Stone is a leader in the new wave of interactive technology that alters the way you can learn a language. Tom Adams, CEO, observes that the company’s core methodology for helping its customers is that the process should be “natural and instinctive.”

At, the company has launched TOTALe – “total experience.” This includes an online language community where language-learners can connect with one another, tap into 50-minute practice sessions led by native-speaking tutors, download an iPad app for learning on the go and employ other dedicated apps for use with the iPod touch or iPhone.

In helping you to break the language barrier, other players include Byki, a software program developed by Transparent Language Inc. Selecting from more than 70 languages, including a few that are endangered, users may choose their level ranging from just starting to those who are fluent but need a refresher.

Linguata, at, offers language-instruction for users facing time constraints and for whom fluency is not always a practical goal. Linguata helps learners to pick up words and phrases, serving as building blocks to proficiency.

Here are some tips to keep you on the path to speaking in another tongue.

* Focus initially on the 100 most common words of any language. These will get you by in the short run while you are increasing your vocabulary.

* Strive to master the past tense of verbs before learning the present tense and put off learning the future tense until you’ve mastered the first two.

* Develop your own phrase book. As words, phrases and eventually sentences become familiar to you, keep a log of those that you will be using repeatedly.

* Label the items in your house with their names in the language you are learning. By seeing an item and its name in, say, German, you can learn it more easily.

* Employ your creativity in learning new words. Visual imagery can help considerably when attempting to recall a word in the language you are learning.

* If it helps, make up your own corny phrases to aid in helping you to recall new words and new concepts.

* Review in your head all day long the words and phrases that you’ve been practising during more formal sessions. It’s reinforcing to “practise in your head.”

* Seek podcasts and radio broadcasts on the web when you can. This a supreme advantage over legions of language learners of previous generations.

As you become more immersed in your learning routines, begin to develop the capacity of thinking in the new language. The ways in which ideas are expressed in other languages, particularly the Indians, often differ vastly from that of English. You’ll know you’re on the right trail when you find yourself thinking in your target language without being conscious of it.

Killer language apps

Babbel, at, provides free vocabulary tutelage featuring “clear, native-speaker pronunciation of every word and phrase.” It also offers an online lesson plan for a monthly fee.

Mind Snacks, at, is a speed-based learning tool that, in game-like fashion, rises in complexity each time you succeed at the current challenge. After the third level, the app costs $5 for the next 47 levels.

Twenty-four/7 Tutor, at, offers puzzles, multiple choice quizzes and flash cards for several popular languages in addition to pronunciations by native speakers. The app provides no grammar and little context.


Jeff Davidson, “The Work-Life Balance Expert®,” is a professional speaker and thought leader on work-life balance issues. He is the author of “Breathing Space” and “Simpler Living.” For more information, go to