“Learning English while you are young, it’s easier than doing it when you are older.” This is one of the most common pieces of advice we hear when it comes to learning a language. How useful is it though?
There are certain aspects of language learning that come more easily to a younger learner. The ability to naturally acquire the same accent as a native speaker, for example, is said to decrease every year after the onset of puberty due to physical changes in the brain. This means that adult learners often need to make the most of different learning strategies as opposed to children in order to be successful.
Another factor is simply time. Children have more time to devote to learning – it’s a full-time job for them throughout their school years. Not many adults have the luxury for dedicating that amount of time to their own learning and, as they progress in their careers, they have even less time as they take on more responsibility.
The final factor that makes it seem like young people can learn faster is their lack of fear. Young people tend to be more open to learning English in new ways and find it easier to overcome their fear of making mistakes. Making mistakes are a natural part of the learning English process and is what helps people to explore new areas of a language in order to become more fluent and express themselves more effectively. The fear of making mistakes is what often causes adult learners to reach an intermediate level in a language then get stuck in a rut, making no further progress. With this in mind, we have created 10 benefits of studying abroad between the ages of 11-17.
10 benefits of studying abroad between the ages of 11-17
Studying abroad is hugely rewarding at any age, but for younger students aged between 11 and 17, it can have additional benefits – here are 10 of them:
1. Ease of learning
Studies show that it’s often easier to learn something, the younger you are. This is especially true for foreign languages. For a young person studying abroad, these skills are often ingrained in them for life.
2. Fewer responsibilities
Studying abroad at a young age makes perfect sense, as you are not yet tied down with responsibilities, such as paying for a mortgage or raising a family. You have the time and freedom to really enjoy the experience.
3. Make lifelong friends
It’s usually easier to make friends the younger you are, especially in a study environment. The friendships you make studying abroad at an early age are often lifelong.
4. Learn vital life skills
There are many essential life skills to be gained studying abroad at a young age, aside from language skills. These include relationship building, decision-making and problem solving.
5. Learn about new cultures
Even if you’ve been abroad on holidays, studying overseas gives you your first real insight into new cultures. This can broaden your mind from an early age and help you understand different ways of life. Kevin Dynan, the Director of Global Medical Projects, offers his advice on why it’s important to live in a foreign country,
“Living in a foreign country (rather than just visiting) gives you the opportunity to learn far more about different cultures and ways of life than you ever could watching TV, browsing the internet or even just visiting a country on holiday. Going somewhere on holiday is a bit like looking through the window on a community, cultural voyeurism if you will, but living in a community gives you a far better understanding of the issues that affect people and what makes them who they are. “
6. Academic achievements
Being exposed to a language in its native country is the best way to learn a language, and may improve exam grades. Having this experience under your belt also looks impressive when applying for courses and jobs.
7. Being independent
It can be daunting for youngsters to leave home to go to college, but if you’ve already experienced time away from home through studying abroad at a young age, you’ll have gained confidence and independence.
8. Structured programme
Study programmes for young people are very structured and can be a really cost-effective way to learn a language or learn about a new country. Students often stay with host families, which can enrich the experience.
9. Discover new hobbies
Outside of Learning English, students will have time to enjoy the social side of life in the host country, where they may discover a new interest. This could be a type of dancing, sport or craft activity specific to that country.
10. Interest in travel
Studying abroad stimulates an interest in travel from an early age. As well as learning English about new cultures, students can discover new terrains, landmarks, buildings and cuisine.
More and more secondary schools in Europe are focussing on Bilingual education with English, sending both their teachers and students abroad for short courses. Private ESOL providers such as the Irish College of English provide this service to thousands of learners every year and are instrumental in facilitating furthering the prospects of adult and junior students across the globe.