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The window for learning a language may stay open surprisingly long

Study suggests people are skilled at picking up grammar in a new tongue up to age 17 or 18

11:02am, May 11, 2018
language students

SPEAK EASY  People who start learning English as a second language by age 10 to 12 attain high levels of grammar knowledge, researchers say. Bilingual success starting at such late ages suggests language learning happens over a much longer period than typically thought.

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

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