Am I Too Old to Learn French?

Learning another language, especially if you only know your native language, is daunting. However talented you are, it’s not something that you’ll be able to ‘just get done’ over the next few months and then move on to the next ‘thing’.

Learning a language is a long-term commitment. You’ll never really ‘complete’ it and there’s always something else you can know. Choosing to go down this path can be a life-changing decision. Perhaps, that’s over-exaggerating a little but you’ll need to commit a lot of time to this over the next couple of years (at least) if you want to be able to engage in conversations with locals! The rewards are worth the effort you’ll put in.

Therefore, wondering whether you’re already too old to start learning French is absolutely a valid question. Fortunately, your age does not have to be a problem when learning. I started learning when I was almost 50, for instance.

In fact, the older you are, the more benefit you will extract from learning French!

Is age just an excuse for not starting?

Age can definitely be an excuse for not starting to learn French. However, it shouldn’t be and doesn’t need to be. Finding excuses for not doing something is easy, I should know – I’m a master of procrastination!

For someone contemplating learning a new language, after just a little research they will find the ordeal slightly more challenging than perhaps they first imagined. The typical excuses are:

  • It’s too difficult
  • I’m not clever enough
  • I’m too old
  • I don’t have enough time
  • I don’t know where to start – so won’t bother

Well, let’s look at those for a second. It’s certainly not ‘easy’ to learn French, especially if you’re starting from complete scratch (like I did) – but then it’s not exactly hard either. There are rules (mostly) and it’s simply a case of remembering some new words, understanding some grammar and practicing. Given enough time, it’s a formality.

You don’t need to be clever to learn a new language. You need to be clever to build a rocket or perform brain surgery – anyone can learn French though. I mean it – anyone. Crikey, if I can – anyone able to read this will be able to also!

You’re not too old as you can never be too old to learn French. We’re all getting old, might as well start today rather than tomorrow though, right?

You can give as much time to learning a new language as you like. You could argue that it becomes easier as you get older, particularly if you’re retired as you then may have more time to give to it. The more time you can give per day, the easier you’ll find it.

As for not knowing where to start, it’s a good point. Take a look here to understand the best way to approach this.

What’s the best age to learn French?

In truth, the best age is younger than 10. Now, I’m betting that there are not many of you reading this that are under 10, right? If you are, good job!

Being over 20 becomes more challenging it’s claimed (source) however, that’s primarily because of social reasons than a decline in cognitive ability.

The truth is, the best time for you to learn French is today. The next best day would be tomorrow however ideally it would have been yesterday.

So, don’t delay anymore and just start!

How much harder is it to learn French when older?

Learning French for one person might be easier than for another. To give you an example, my wife still remembers French from school – I remembered precisely nothing. So, we can’t compare individual learning rates. However, the same person shouldn’t find learning any harder at 60 than they did at 20.

The problems those older will face against those that are younger are more socially-related than anything else. When older, assuming you’re not retired, you may be a mum or a dad, have a tough job with long hours, and other commitments that take up a lot of your time.

So, the problem isn’t that you’re less able to learn when you’re older, it’s just that you have a lot more going on in your life!

Will I ever be too old to start learning French?

To make it absolutely clear, you are never too old to start learning French. There are no biological constraints (research shows) that will prevent someone from learning a new language.

In fact, some evidence shows that the older you are, the easier you may find it. This isn’t because your brain has developed special language-learning connections but because you simply understand language in general better than you did when you were younger.

You will typically have a better grasp of grammar, a better host vocabulary and a better understanding of what you need to prioritise when learning the new language. For instance, perhaps it’s less important to learn how to ask for directions to the nightclub than asking for directions to the nearest cafe so you can indulge in a croque monsieur!

Conclusion – think you’re too old to learn French?

You are most definitely, categorically, 100% not too old to learn French. Now, if you’re in your 50s and considering becoming the next Olympic 100m champion – then yes, maybe you need another dream!

Only good things can come out of acquiring and going through the learning process when discovering a new language. It will help you keep mentally fit, keep you occupied, you’ll meet new people and it will open up new avenues that you didn’t previously know existed.

I have no idea why more people don’t try and learn a new language as it’s the most addictive, rewardable journey you may ever embark on. So, stop making excuses and just get going!

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