In today’s world, most societies are made up of people from all sorts of different backgrounds. It’s not unusual to go to school with children who speak more than one language at home. The modern global economy has connected so many different parts of the world through trade that it’s sometimes necessary to be able to speak several languages.

If you want to learn a new language, which one should you choose? Have you ever WONDERed what the most popular languages in the world are? You might be surprised! Language experts believe the top six most-spoken languages in the world are Mandarin Chinese, English, Hindu, Spanish, Russian and Arabic.

But can you really teach an old dog new tricks? Can a grown adult learn a new language later in life? Or is it sometimes just too late to learn a new language?

Many people believe that you lose the ability to learn new languages as you get older. Language experts, however, will tell you that you’re never too old to learn a new language. As you get older, it can be more difficult to learn a new language, though.

Children and adults learn new languages in different ways. For children, language is their life. They study for thousands of hours every year, because they need to learn language to become part of their communities.

Adults, on the other hand, are already part of a language community. Learning a new language means becoming part of another language community, and adults rarely get the chance to practice as much as young children do.

Moreover, children learning a new language are expected to make mistakes. This gives them freedom when learning to be daring and confident. Adults, however, often feel pressured to be perfect when learning a new language. This can intimidate many people and make it even harder to learn a new language.

Many students in the United States don’t begin to learn a second language until middle school or high school. Studies show, however, that the best time to start learning another language is when we’re very young.

Research has shown that children who learn a new language when they are very young will not be as likely to have a “foreign” accent when speaking a different language. Some scientists also believe that it can take up to 10,000 hours of study to master a new language. This can be difficult for adults to achieve, but young children can accumulate those hours over several years as they grow up.

Young children also have the benefit of enjoying learning more than older students or adults. If you make learning a new language fun, most young children will jump in with enthusiasm. Young children will often approach learning a new language without fear of making mistakes. This gives them the freedom to learn without fear of failure.

When young children learn a new language, they come to see multiple languages as a “normal” part of society. This mindset helps them embrace learning a new language without feeling like they’re doing something unusual or “too hard.”

So if you want to learn a new language, go for it! It’s never too late to learn a new language. If you’re older, it may take more work, but it can be done. If you’re a young child, though, now is the time to step out and learn a new language!

33 Join the Discussion

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  1. Nice, i want to speak english fluently like english speakers. I will count the times until i can master it. It will take 10,000 hours , right :)

  2. I’m going to try and learn some Spanish over this summer break! This WONDER was really interesting. Adios Amigos!

  3. let me guess, it was spanish?!?! my mom is a spanish teacher,hebrew teacher and french teacher! I know a lot of spanish! adios amigos!

    • Wow Julia! Sounds like you are familiar with a lot of different languages :) We think that is WONDERful!

  4. Adios amigos how the day going ? I’m great! My whole family is an expert at Vietnamese except for my big brother I’m from Mrs. Mallen’s class. Summer break rules! It’s never to late to learn a new language.
    :):):):):):):):):):):):)(:(:(:(:(:(:(:(:(:(:(:
    Well I’ll try to get on tomorrow :0 ;)

  5. Hola
    My sister, Helena, and I are from Guatemala, but we do not speak much Spanish. I want to take Mandarin Chinese. Someday I might visit China.
    Adios amigos,

  6. Sorry I commented so late I was really busy, helping my dad do some errands. I only know how to speak English. :( It is really strange I’m Chinese but, I just didn’t learn how to speak Chinese! My sister and parents do though.
    I definitely think tomorrow’s wonder is about the palace in China that has the statues all in rows. That’s a fact!!! :) See everyone tomorrow!!

    • We think you were right about your guess for the WONDER :) Congratulations on being a great WONDER detective!

  7. I didn’t know this!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Research has shown that children who learn a new language when they are very young will not be as likely to have a “foreign” accent when speaking a different language. Some scientists also believe that it can take up to 10,000 hours of study to master a new language. This can be difficult for adults to achieve, but young children can accumulate those hours over several years as they grow up.That is a cool fact~!!!!! :)
    :)
    :)

  8. We use 3 languages in our family. I wonder – if my child will get confused… May kids accidentally mix all those languages into 1, or will they distinguish between them? Like “speak 1 language on the street”, “another with your mom and dad”, “and the third with your grandma”?

    • Thanks for sharing this WONDERful comment with us, Sophia! We think your kids are super lucky to be immersed in three different languages in their lives! We’re glad you stopped by Wonderopolis today! :-)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Is it ever too late to learn a new language?
  • Do children have an easier time learning new languages?
  • How many hours can it take to master a new language?

Wonder Gallery

Try It Out

Ready to learn some common words in a foreign language? First, pick which language you’d like to learn more about. Here are some common foreign languages that many students in the United States choose to learn:

  • Spanish
  • German
  • French

Of course, you may have a particular family heritage that makes you want to learn more about a different language. That’s fine! Choose whatever language interests you the most.

Here are some common words and simple phrases in English that you can learn in your chosen foreign language. You can use an online translator, such as Babel Fish, to help you find the proper translations.

  • Hello.
  • Goodbye.
  • Thank you.
  • You’re welcome.
  • My name is…
  • What time is it?

We hope you have fun learning some new words and phrases in a foreign language!

Still Wondering

Check out EDSITEment!’s French as a Second Language Activities for Kids game to help children learn French with crossword puzzles, drawing and quizzes.

Wonder What’s Next?

Tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day takes a look at a city that some believe is forbidden!

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