What is the critical age for learning a language? MIT study offers an answer

kid learning a language

Researchers at MIT suggest that anyone can learn a language with great aptitude until the age of 18 years old, but speak it in a native way only until 10.

A recent study carried out by researchers at MIT suggests that anyone can master a language with great aptitude until the age of 17 or 18. However, they claim that it is almost impossible to learn a new language with the proficiency of a native speaker after the age of 10.

Although scientists cannot confirm that it is until this age that learners could speak another language as a native speaker, they state that the cognitive ability begins to decrease as of the age of 10. Previous investigations considered that the window of opportunity to adopt a second native language closed at 5 years.

MIT study

The study measured the responses of 670,000 people who took a grammar test published on Facebook; the campaign went viral, a situation that allowed the researchers to obtain a significant sample.

The methodology was simple. The participants answered a ten minutes questionnaire, and then they revealed their age at which they began to learn English, as well as information regarding their linguistic background. Likewise, the researchers used a powerful computational model to analyze the enormous amount of data collected.

Furthermore, MIT specialists published all of their results so that other researchers can analyze it from different angles and with other purposes.

The theory that it is easier to learn a new language as a child than as an adult seems to be true, but it is not as young as we thought. Data shows effective language learning occur until the age of 18, but this is far from being conclusive; consequent research is imperative.