Learning a foreign language as an adult: my experience

Best way for adults to learn a foreign language

There are a lot of people who believe that it is not possible to learn a language as an adult. They think so because there are a lot of misconceptions about learning as an adult, for example, that the adult brain is no longer able to learn, that you can only do it if you live in the country, that it will take too long, that it is too difficult, etc.

I am however convinced that it is possible. And you will probably think: of course you say so considering your profession as I have been teaching Italian to adults for many years. But the interesting thing is that I’m not only convinced but I actually know that this is possible and this is because I have done it myself.

I was born in Italy and lived there until my late 20ies. Until I was 25 I didn’t know a word of English.

I of course knew that English was very important for my working career, whatever I was going to do, but I was busy at University and therefore I thought, I’ll do this later.

When later came I was already 25, I started going to a once a week class organised by the local library. When I started I remember that I had the impression to have been starving for it. Everybody seemed to speak it – although I didn’t know at what level - and references to it were everywhere. So I was hungry for it and therefore my motivation was sky-high. And interestingly enough it never crossed my mind that I wouldn’t learn. Not because of arrogance but because everybody seems to be able to speak it and flaunt it and therefore I thought why not me?

I studied for two years going once a week to my class but this was not enough for me.

I would search out ways of learning outside of the class, reading anything that I came across, using my dictionary to extend my vocabulary and then record the family of words and how to use them in sentences. When after two years I travelled to London my English wasn’t particularly good but it was much, much better than when it was non-existent. After a short holiday, I went back to Italy. It took another two years before I actually moved to London for good and during those two years, I kept going to classes, researching, writing, etc to learn more and more. When I finally moved to London for good I had a good working knowledge of the language.

So my message is be hungry for it. Understand your motivation. Be confident: I have done it, so can you.

Don’t only rely on going to your class but try to find ways of working outside of it.