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- Do children really learn languages

faster than adults?


Hello I'm Julian Northbrook


One very common concern

that my coaching clients tend to come to me with

is that they're worried that they are too old

to reach the level in English

they want to reach.

What they are touching upon here

is an idea in linguistics called

the Critical Period Hypothesis.

I'm not going to get into this

in detail in this video

because it's not what I want to talk about.

But this idea basically says

that your brain changes at a certain point

commonly believed to be puberty,

and therefore you are unable to learn languages

or at least in the same way

as you could when you were a child.

This is an incredibly complex theory

and one that has been bounced around for decades,

and one which has never conclusively been proven

and we probably never will be able

to come up with a hard and solid

it's true or it's not answer.

The general thinking and certainly the thinking

on my side of the research camp

is that it's not really true,

or at least not in the hard core language

is this special thing embedded

in the human genome camp of people.

But where this becomes a problem is

when people start to interpret ideas

that come from research and put one and one

together and come up with 20.

Good example of this, couple of years ago

I made a video called

Are You Too Old to Learn English

linked up about here.

In that video I said that age is irrelevant

and it's not something you should worry about,

and I stand by that opinion.

But the top comment on that video

essentially says while I agree

that you shouldn't worry about age,

there is lots of established research

that proves children are better, faster,

do it easier at learning languages than adults.

Now what does this actually mean?

Think about this for a moment.

Yeah there is plenty of research out there

that shows that kids learn fast.

They learn faster than adults.

And this is often being put forward

as an argument for the Critical Period Hypothesis

But again think about this just for a moment.

Say I decided to do a research project

asking do married people get divorced

more often than single people?

What do you think the result

of that is gonna be?

I mean it's pretty obvious, isn't it?

You've gotta be married in order to get divorced,

therefore if you're single you can't get divorced

Well of course there's gonna be a higher rate

to divorce in married people.

All I proved here is that I have

set up a research project

comparing apples to oranges,

and the conclusion I've come to is pineapples,

i.e. I've proved absolutely nothing

and this is the problem

when it comes to doing research

with children and comparing 'em to adults.

In order for a research study to be able to show

do children learn languages faster

and better and easier than adults,

well those studies would have to be set up

in a way that actually gives us the result

that we want to get,

i.e. the two groups of people

would have to be learning the same things

for the same amount of time,

using the same methods,

all with the same kind of background knowledge,

and in exactly the same conditions.

But this just isn't possible

because adults and children are not the same.

We're never going to be able to do a study

which looks at these two groups

under the same kind of conditions,

because they are fundamentally different.

And although there is research

that shows yes children learn faster,

the most likely reason for that is actually

not that their brains are completely different

and therefore they're able

to learn languages at supersonic speed,

but rather that actually they have more time,

fewer responsibilities,

and less going on in their heads.

Children are concerned with asking

if they can have a biscuit.

Adults are in meetings

negotiating billion dollar deals.

You can't come up with conclusions

that mean anything under those conditions.

So when we see comments like

the one that I've just discussed,

really the only conclusion

that you can come to from that

is that the commenter doesn't really

understand the research.

But the problem is is as I said

we see these things

and we put one and one together

and come up with 20,

i.e. we start to feel inadequate,

bad about ourselves because we believe suddenly

oh here's this research that proves

only children can do this,

I'm not a child, therefore perhaps I can't do it,

perhaps it's impossible,

doubt creeps in and we tell ourselves

it's just not worth the effort

it can't be done anyway and we quit.

Hopefully you can see that

that is rather foolish thinking.

And while I'm not criticising the commenter

of that particular comment,

it's not a good comment

because it doesn't actually tell us

anything useful whatsoever.

If you want some solid advice about things

that you can do to see improvement

in your English, head on over


to checkout my free training

where I will teach you the five key changes

that you need to make to the way

that you approach and use English

in order to see real progress

with your English speaking.

Alternatively if you are ready

to take things to the next level,

work with me directly either

as one of my coaching clients or as a member

of one of my coaching groups,

head over to

to book a time to talk to me directly

about you and your English

and see whether we are

a good fit to work together

and whether I can help you

to get your English goals finished, done,

accomplished and get you actually out there

doing real stuff in the real world.

This is me Julian Northbrook

signing out from another video.

I'll see you in the next one. Bye, bye.

(upbeat theme music)

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