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Can You Become Fluent In a Language at 40?

Is the adage of being too old for new things true when learning a new language? Or is too much happening in your skull to allow you to learn a new things at 40?

For many, learning a new language is necessary – whether they move to a new country, go backpacking or require it in a new job – but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

You can become fluent in a language at 40 if you are willing to invest the time and effort required. Practicing and repeating new words aren’t any different at 40 than in your youth. However, you may find you take a little longer to recall certain things.  

learning a language

If you’re wondering whether it’s possible to teach the proverbial old dog new tricks when learning a whole new language… You’re in luck. There are many reasons why trying to become fluent in a new language. Even at 40! and it can be very beneficial and keep you young!

Can You Become Fluent In a Language at 40 Years Old?

The human brain is a phenomenal organ that can pick up new things for as long as it can function. Like all things, however, it does lose some of its ability to do so rapidly as we age. But science shows us that you can become fluent in new languages at 40.

While it may take a little longer than it would’ve if you were in your teens, there is no reason why you can’t. do it

As long as:

  • You are dedicated
  • Willing to take time and
  • Happy to practice

Is 40 Too Old To Learn a New Language?

Sure, the brain’s neuroplasticity decreases with age, but that doesn’t mean it cannot process. And for all intents and purposes, 40 is still considered relatively young by modern standards.

Neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s ability to change and adapt in response to new things, experiences, and input. Research shows that this ability diminishes as we age, but by 40, this change is not advanced. There are also some advantages to being a little older when you try to learn a new language. This includes that you have already developed a natural sense of how sentence structure, syntax, and grammar work.

Learning a language at 40

In this way, it could be a much more natural experience to pick up a new language. From submerging yourself in a new environment, naturally pick up on those things.

Younger folks and children may find it more challenging to learn the rules that dictate these things. Although for small children it comes much more naturally as their brains are wired to absorb, adapt, and learn.

Also, older folks are more likely to mispronounce new words or struggle with nuances that native speakers naturally have. But it doesn’t mean is not possible.

Tips For Learning A New Language at 40

There are various schools of thought about learning a new language and whether age is a hindrance. For the most part, science supports the idea that there is no absolute cut-off age when you can successfully learn a new language. There are some factors to consider, but it doesn’t imply that becoming fluent will not be a challenge on its own. 

Here are some tips and things to remember that could make the entire process easier and a lot more fulfilling:

It Takes Time And Effort

Learning a new language is an enormous task – languages are vast and convoluted with tenses, masculine and feminine words, specific sentence structures, and many rules that govern how words should be used to make sense. And this is without even considering nuances in pronunciation.

To complicate matters further, all languages have their own rules, too. In short, learning a new language is never going to happen overnight.

Understanding that it will take time is the first step to mastering a new language. Prepare yourself for a gradual learning process, and actively try to learn. This means looking up words, taking courses, using specific apps, or reading material in a new language. Whichever approach you take, make the conscious decision to invest your time in it, and you will be rewarded.


Practice And Dedication

Simply learning a few words or being able to follow a film in a different language won’t be enough to be fluent. Like learning to drive a car, cook, or perform a hobby, learning a new language takes practice. You will need to make the cognitive decision to practice, whether in conversations with others or when you are alone. 

Those dedicated to spending a certain amount of time speaking the new language will become much more natural and fluent. The brain stores information after repetition. So the more your practice, the easier you will recall the words and sentences you need to say.

Use the Right Tools

One of the benefits of being a little more mature (40 years old) is the ability to use various learning tools. With access to websites, courses, apps, and even games designed to help you learn. There is an endless array of tools promoting a new language.

Naturally, not all of these are free, but it’s a worthy investment if you are serious about this. Learning another language is a brilliant skill that will always stand you in good stead, personally and professionally.

Surround Yourself With Native Speakers

Immersion in an environment is one of the best ways to become a natural speaker. Depending on your situation and why you want to learn, you may want to join a club or hobby with others who speak the language.

Naturally, moving to a new country is like falling into the deep end of a swimming pool. But it’s also a surefire way of learning. 

With the help of those around you, you will likely learn the nuances, pronunciation, slang terms, and appropriate way of speaking much easier. It is human nature to mimic those around us. Since the brain needs repetition to cement new information, the more you expose it to the new language, the easier you will recall words and sentences.

Of course, the support and positive reinforcement from native speakers will also help you learn rather than trying to learn in isolation.

Writing a new language

Speaking And Writing A New Language

There are marked differences between learning to speak a new language and being able to communicate in writing. Firstly, some languages use an entirely different alphabet, so reading and writing a new language can be even more challenging. 

On the other hand, simply focusing on being conversationally fluent is a brilliant first step – speaking the language fluently will make learning to read and write easier.

In the same way, we teach little children to speak first before requiring them to learn to read and write. The same process applies to learning a new language.

Of course, we are all different, and some people may find it easier to read words first and then connect their meaning and pronunciation after the fact. Take this into account when you’re learning a new language.

And remember that, if you’re learning a new language, you will need to learn to read it too to understand signage and essential communications.

Should You Try To Learn a New Language At 40?

For some, learning a new language isn’t an option. When people are moving to a new country that doesn’t speak their native tongue, they may not have a choice. This may be something they have to do, and have to do as fast as possible. But for those considering learning a new language, there are many positive reasons why it’s a great idea. The benefits of such a massive life change at 40 include:

  • It keeps you young: Research suggests that learning a new language may actually be beneficial for keeping your brain healthy. Some scientists have even found evidence that learning a new language can slow down the decline that often comes with age and even potentially delay dementia. It’s been found that older bilingual folk were much slower to develop dementia than those who could only speak one language.
  • Cultivate a sense of purpose: For some, growing older can feel like they have reached their peak and exhausted their potential. Learning a new language is an achievement to tick off, and in this way, it gives a sense of purpose. And much like physical exercise, learning a new language also stimulates your brain and gives it a new lease on life.
  • It opens up new cultural, belief, and tradition avenues: Languages are laden with history and meaning. The cultures and beliefs that form part of a language inevitably filter into the process of learning a new language. Knowing such things can be incredibly fulfilling as you become more fluent in the language.
  • The social aspects of learning a new language: One of the most fun ways to learn a new language is to surround yourself with those who can speak it. And for those who need to learn a language because they have moved to a new country, this is one tremendous benefit. The increase in social interaction is not just emotionally satisfying, but it’s also vital to a healthy psyche.
  • Trained discipline: Learning something new requires repetition, practice, and commitment, and learning a new language is no different. Enhancing your discipline levels can never be a negative thing and will go a long way to helping you stay young mentally.


While there are certainly challenges to consider when learning a new language at 40, you are never too old. Becoming fluent in a new language will require time and effort.

Still, the benefits are not just limited to navigating conversations but can also positively impact your health and emotional well-being.