Study suggests people are skilled at picking up grammar in a new tongue up to age 17 or 18
Language learning isn’t kid stuff anymore. In fact, it never was, a provocative new study concludes.
A crucial period for learning the rules and structure of a language lasts up to around age 17 or 18, say psychologist Joshua Hartshorne of MIT and colleagues.
Previous research had suggested that grammar-learning ability flourished in early childhood before hitting a dead end around age 5. If that were true, people who move to another country and try to learn a second language after the first few years of life should have a hard time achieving the fluency of native speakers.
But that’s not so, Hartshorne’s team reports online May 2 in Cognition. In an online sample of unprecedented size, people who started learning English as a second language in an English-speaking country by age 10 to 12 ultimately mastered the new tongue as well as folks who had