Senior Spanish student

Senior students can’t learn Spanish? “Fake news!”

One of the most common misconceptions that we face is that senior students will never really learn Spanish. Some people even take it as a fact - older adults simply cannot learn new languages and reach full proficiency. Well, at Spanish Gurus, we call that "wrong" and "ageism". Here’s why.

The first reason not to fall for that common-place myth is our experience. Every day, our teachers work with dozens of successful older adult students. Whether they are language enthusiasts or people learning Spanish to move their careers forward, we’ve seen students who started at the most basic levels conquer their DELE certificate.

We’ve noticed these students are very disciplined and focused. Generally they have a clear purpose for learning Spanish; they’ve set their own goals and they give their best to achieve them. We’ve previously discussed how having clear goals is key to learn any language, especially if you’re trying to do so as quickly as possible.

The second reason is that nobody is incapable of learning languages. Scientifically speaking. Although children might conquer higher levels of fluency faster when exposed to the language (e.g. when moving to a new country) and are less likely to speak with an accent, that doesn’t mean seniors can’t become fluent in foreign languages.

Nothing - apart from their mindset - stops older students from learning new vocabulary or new grammar. Nothing prevents them from trying to roll their rrs. Even if you can’t speak with a perfect accent, that’s no reason to be ashamed. You are speaking in a language that is not your own: if that isn’t an accomplishment, what is? There’s no reason to be embarrassed - on the contrary.

For too long we, as a society, have perpetuated the myth that “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”. We have our own version in Spanish, “loro viejo no aprende a hablar”, which literally means “an old parrot doesn’t learn how to talk”. A colleague tells me that a Portuguese saying goes “burro velho não aprende línguas”, which roughly translates as “an old donkey can’t learn languages”. I bet every language has its own version: feel free to tell me yours in the comments below.

All of these expressions go far beyond learning a foreign language. They imply that older people can’t learn anything new. They are expressions that only serve the ugly purpose of perpetuating ageism. But guess what? It’s never too late to learn something you want to learn. I’ll finish off with a great example: Mary Hobson, an English translator, decided to learn Russian at 56. She graduated in her sixties and went on to translate Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin.

So if you are an older adult or even a senior who would like to speak Spanish, dive in: it’s a beautiful language, and you can learn it.
Spanish Gurus has online Spanish courses, sign up now! Classes use high-quality video conference and each group has a maximum of 6 students per class. You can choose the schedule that works best for your time zone. Of course, all our courses feature native teachers who specialize in teaching Spanish as foreign language.