I started learning Italian in my 40’s so when I hear the question “Am I too old to learn Italian” I am quick to reply. 

You are never too old to learn Italian.  One of the most damaging myths in learning Italian is the idea that once we reach a certain age we are too old to learn the language. This is simply not true. 

To the contrary studies have proven that there is not a critical age range when learning a new language. 

For example, in the study “A Test of the Critical-Period Hypothesis for Second-Language Acquisition”, 2.3 million US immigrants were tested. The study examined the immigrants abilities to learn a second language and how that correlated to age and other factors.

In the end, the study found no correlation between the immigrants ability to learn a second language and their age

So those who were in their middle ages or older were able to learn a second language just as well as children or teenagers. 

That is great news if you thought you were too old to learn Italian!

Why Adults Are Not Too Old To Learn Italian

There are many factors that actually work in favor of older language learners. Here are just a few:

1. Learning Ability 

Adults have a big advantage because they already know how to learn.

Children and younger students must follow the instructions of teachers. On the other hand, as adults we have the ability to also teach ourselves. We know what methods work for us and which ones do not.

In fact most polyglots, a person who can speak several languages, say learning a new language like Italian becomes easier over time. 

This is because they develop systems of learning that work for them. 

Steve Kaufman is a shining example of this.  He could only speak English until the age of 17. 

However, since the age of 17 he has learned 16 languages fluently!  And he is still learning.

At age 60 he started learning Russian and at age 62 he started to learn Portuguese.

I found the same to be true for me.

As I have progressed in learning Italian I have been able to identify what methods work the best for me. This has spend up my learning dramatically.

2. Attention Span

Adults once again have a huge advantage when it comes to attention span.

Learning Italian can be a difficult and long process at times.

As such, it requires intense dedication for extended periods of time.

Thankfully our attention spans increase over time and peak around age 43.

So those long sessions of listening and learning Italian are much easier for an adult than a child.

3. Motivation

Having a “why” or reason to learn Italian can be the biggest contributing factor to your success in Italian fluency.

Perhaps your “why” is the desire to speak with relatives. 

Or maybe you have a love interest who speaks Italian.

Maybe you love to travel to Italy and want to be able to truly experience the country as an insider.

Whatever it is the motivation to learn Italian will get you going through the difficult times.

After all, as famed Austrian psychologist and Holocaust survivor Victor Frankl stated:

“Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.”

As adults our “why” is usually stronger than children. Especially those that are being forced to learn italian.

4. Time

Learning Italian requires a serious time commitment.  

This may be difficult for some adults with small children or those busy with their careers.

However, for senior citizens learning Italian or those retired time is more freely available. 

Even more than children who are busy with school, after school programs, and athletics.

5. Access to Italian Learning Resources

We are lucky to be living in the midst of the Information age.

Never before has there been this amount of readily available resources to learn Italian.

All easily accessible from our computers or smart phones with a click of a button.

All within reach whether you are at home or on the road.

And most of the resources are free

For those of us who grew up without the internet we can remember how difficult it was to find resources for studying anything.

Imagine trying to learn Italian without the help of the internet?

With so many free resources online adults of any age can speed up their Italian learning.

Benefits Of Learning Italian As An Adult 

So now that we know we are not too old to learn Italian the next question is:

Why should I learn Italian as an adult?

There are several reasons:

1. Learning Italian is Good for Your Brain Health

Recent studies have shown that learning a second language improves cognition in older adults and also delays the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Further, learning a second language like Italian can improve your overall intelligence, concentration and memory.

But the benefits do not end there.

Learning Italian can also help you make better decisions. People who speak only one language tend to make decisions based on emotions.

We also see that as we learn Italian we are actually also improving our English. I may be dating myself and I don’t remember much from my high school English classes. However, since I started learning Italian I also have renewed/increased my knowledge of English grammar. This has led to improved writing, speaking and communication skills.

2. Learning Italian Expands New Horizons

Being able to speak Italian has enriched my life in many ways.

Most of all it has allowed me to meet and become friends with so many people that I would have never been able to communicate with in the past.

It has made my trips to Italy so much more enjoyable. I can now speak with locals and feel a part of whatever city I am visiting. 

For others learning Italian as an adult can open up new job and business opportunities.

3. Learning Italian Will Give You More Self-Confidence

Learning Italian can be a humbling experience.

In the beginning you will fail and at times you may even lose hope.

But learning Italian can also be one of the most rewarding things you can do.

From being able to say simple phrases to having your first conversation in Italian these moments will give you a huge sense of accomplishment.

In these moments you have taken a chance and moved out of your comfort zone. In being able to speak even a little Italian you will a profound sense that you are still able to take on and conquer anything. 

No matter what your age is.

Related Question:

Do children have any advantages over adults in learning Italian?

Studies have found children have an advantage with regards to learning Italian pronunciation and grammar.

However, what is your goal? Fluency or perfection?

For most of us even being able to communicate in Italian would be a huge achievement.

Italian fluency is certainly possible at any age.

Perfection, especially with regards to pronunciation, may not be attainable after a certain age but most adult learners are ok with that.

By: Frank DePino

Frank DePino is one of the co-founders of LearnItalianGo. He is a frequent traveler to Italy and has been studying Italian for years.