Can You Gain Language Fluency as an Adult?

Trying to learn a new language as an adult can be an intimidating prospect. And, as if it wasn’t difficult enough, there are some out there that claim it’s impossible to become fluent in a foreign language once you’re past the age of 10! While it may seem like it’s not worth the time and effort to learn a new language if fluency isn’t an achievable goal, you shouldn’t give up on your language learning dreams just yet. Read on to discover if it’s possible to achieve fluency as an adult, and learn a few tips to help get you started on your language journey.


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What is fluency?

First things first, let’s talk about what exactly it means to be fluent in a language. It turns out that there’s quite a few different definitions for language fluency out there, which can make it confusing for a language learner. Some people say that fluency means you can speak that foreign tongue almost as well as your native language, while others claim that you have to know a language perfectly in order to be considered fluent. But is there really such a thing as speaking a language perfectly? English is my native tongue, but there’s still a lot of words I don’t know and I occasionally make mistakes while speaking or writing.

While everyone’s definition of fluency can vary, I think it’s safe to say that being fluent means you can use a language without hesitating or stopping to think and put sentences together in your head. If you can carry out conversations easily on a wide range of topics, you’re fluent (or at least in my book you are)!

Can you gain fluency?

The answer to this question is a resounding “yes!” Despite what some naysayers may claim, you can achieve fluency as an adult. It’s really all a question of how you approach your language learning and your dedication to the cause. Find a language that really speaks to you, one that you love and can see yourself sticking to long-term. Also dedicate a little bit of your time every single day to practising the language. While taking proper lessons is a must, if your only exposure to the language is a couple hour-long lessons a week, you won’t really progress much. Even if you only have 10 minutes to dedicate to reviewing your target tongue, if you apply this over the long term you’re sure to see some amazing results.

Another thing to remember is that adults already know how to learn, which can often give us a boost over children who have to be taught discipline. This is a skill you can use to create an effective language learning environment for yourself!

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Fun with fluency?

Seriously, if you’re not having fun with achieving fluency, what are you even doing learning a foreign language? Find creative ways to aid your quest for fluency, whether it’s taking salsa lessons so you can practice your Spanish, or frequenting Japanese restaurants to try out your language skills on the staff. Find local events where native speakers get together to hang out. Attending parties where most people speak the language you’re trying to learn is a great way to socialize, make friends, and improve your language skills in a fun environment where alcohol is a good lubricant to putting people at ease.

And if you’re feeling a bit too old for the party scene, push yourself out of your comfort zone by attending dinners or creating your own meet-up where like-minded people can practice the target language, too!

Language learning

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Challenges with fluency?

While dedication and discipline can go a long way to helping you achieve fluency, you also have to be pragmatic and practical with your expectations. Regardless of how competent you become with your target tongue, you will always have a bit of an accent when you speak. And conquering that language will probably end up being a lifelong endeavour for you, and that’s okay, too! Be sure to identify your personal weaknesses before you tackle any language so you know which pitfalls to avoid and what you need to focus on. And most importantly, don’t take it all too seriously!

Learning a language is supposed to be an enjoyable experience, and you won’t be able to tackle the challenges you’ll face without feeling pretty passionate about what you’re doing.

How do you define fluency in a foreign language? Do you think it’s possible to achieve fluency as an adult?