I’m too old to learn a language…

Have you ever heard that learning a language as an adult is different from learning a language as a child? Actually, it isn't.

It is true that children learn languages more quickly than adults:

  • they have brains that pick up everything so quickly and all day, every day they learn,
  • they are not afraid to make mistakes,
  • and they have no incorrect ideas to "forget" in their journey yet.

My 4-year-old daughter learns English from me by asking me a thousand questions (a hundred times each) and copying me. I don't know how many times I have heard her tell her teddy bears to clean their room! sigh....


But actually, the way we learn languages doesn't change as we get older.


We still learn best by immersion, copying and "playing" with it.

Traditional adult language learning can be focused on acquiring words (vocabulary) and the rules to put them together (grammar).

But it isn't that simple.

For example, native English speakers have natural patterns of speech. We don't use all possible combinations of words. We could say "if we analyze everything together" but we don't tend to. We say "if we look at the bigger picture".


To learn English effectively (and with the least amount of pain possible), learn like a child.


Don't try and learn a language as though is something you will know, learn it like it is something you will use.

Rather than trying to increase your vocabulary intentionally, increase it during your listening and reading of English. You will hear the words in their authentic setting which gives a much better understanding of meaning than by checking a dictionary! It will also allow you to actively think about word meanings, the relationships among words, and how we can use words in different situations. All of these are critical in using words naturally.

Rather than trying to learn the rules for past simple, past continuous, past perfect, focus on reading/listening and copying authentic examples of language in use. The rules can help you to understand something of difficulty as you find it, but you won't need them to build sentences in time.


Stop wasting time on the "old" way of learning English and turbocharge your learning with the "new".


Here are 5 tips to learn Business English like a child.

Any time you think some other language is strange, remember that yours is just as strange, you’re just used to it.

  1. Include "play"

When children play, they find a topic or activity that is relevant to them, including when they play make-believe.

So when you practice talking in your target language, imagine real-life situations that you might find yourself in. Imagine you are negotiating with your boss for a pay rise or presenting to the board for a capital request. What would you say? How would you say it?


  1. Immerse yourself in the language.

Children are surrounded by their native or target language. So for this strategy, you’ll need to find a way to immerse yourself in the language. This could be through a trip to a country that speaks your target language. It could also be by surrounding yourself with friends, classmates, colleagues, and acquaintances who also speak or are learning the language.

But you don’t have to hop on an airplane to take advantage of this advice. You might be surprised at just how many opportunities there are for practicing a language in your own town. Connect with your community and begin exploring your options.


  1. Learn with stories.

Do you like watching movies? Have you discovered podcasts yet? Listening to something that is interesting to you in English will increase your incidental English and boost your learning while you don't even notice.


  1. Try a Structured Language Learning Program

Consider signing up for a more structured language learning program. There are many options available for online Business English language classes/1-1 coaching (as well as mine of course...).


  1. Don’t Be Afraid of Sounding Silly

One of the reasons kids learn so well is because they have no fear! They also have no self-conscious tendencies. Don’t worry about making mistakes – just keep practicing until you get things right!


And finally a bonus tip. HAVE FUN. If something is fun, you will keep doing it and consistency is the necessary ingredient for success.


Here is a short presentation video I made for a class on giving presentations (hahaha.) It is on this topic and may be helpful for you if you want to explore this idea a little further.



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How to Take Your English Communication Skills from Intermediate/Advanced to “Natural” and Really Get Noticed in the Workplace as a Mining and Minerals Industry Professional