Difficulties for adults learning new languages

Difficulties for adults learning new languages

Published: Apr 24, 2023 | By: Lucas Weaver

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Difficulties for adults learning new languages

I’ve taught many online English classes for adults, and every single one has been a rewarding experience. 

The biggest difference in teaching adults and kids is that kids expect to learn; they’re continuously learning new things every day.

In their classes, they learn new things every day that they know they’ll get tested on later. While they may not be interested in every single subject, they’re still like little knowledge sponges just running around soaking up new information. 

Adults are different. Adults don’t frequently take new courses, pick up new hobbies, or try new experiences. When they do, though, it usually gives them a bit of an adrenaline rush.

Think back to the last time you learned or tried something new…

Did you have a period of nervous anticipation? Were you thinking about how it would go, imagining the best and worst scenarios?

And then once you actually did it, did you feel a rush and sense of accomplishment that made you excited and proud?

My first surf lesson

That’s how I was regarding surfing. I took my first surfing lesson in Bali when I was 30 years old. I never really considered myself a “surfer.” When you watch surfing movies, they’re all 185cm/6’3” dudes with six packs and long blonde hair who think they can do anything. 

I’m not that guy. At all. I get nervous before virtually everything and I'm 177cm with shoes on. So when I was preparing for my first surf lesson, it took a lot of mental energy. But once I actually started the lessons, everything went great. And I was much better than I had thought I would be!

But interestingly, I wasn’t really like that as a kid. I still got nervous before trying new things, but it didn’t take me much to jump in. I tried things like skateboarding, BMX biking, and even shooting guns, all with relative ease.

Something changes when we become adults.

online adult language learning

The social component of adults learning new skills

We don’t realize it at that time, but when we’re kids, we have very little to lose. We can constantly go around trying new things hoping we’re good at them because as soon as we find one that we’re good at, people will forget about all of the things we’re bad at.

And it’s a natural time of experimentation and exploration. As adults, however, we seemingly have fully formed identities and “personas.” 

“Who does John think he is trying to learn Portuguese? What is he going to move to Brazil or something?”

“Why is Samantha learning salsa? Is she unhappy with her marriage?”

“I heard Eduardo is taking a drawing class. Is he having a midlife crisis?”

These are all extreme examples and hopefully, something more like you might hear from an overdone American TV drama than someone in your real life. But they are an illustration of the types of negative thoughts that can sometimes come with attempts at self-improvement as an adult. 

When we want to do something like improve our language skills, we have to think about a number of factors before we decide to do it. It’s not like grade school when we were forced to show Monday-Friday from 8-4 and basically learn as an unpaid job.

adult online language classes frustration

Common obstacles blocking adults from taking language courses

Finding time in your schedule

Adults are busy. Even if you’re not busy, you probably have 100 things that are taking mental energy from you, so when you actually get time to yourself, most likely you don’t want to do something that will take even more energy away. 

Taking a language course takes time, energy, and commitment. In all the online English courses I’ve taught, the students who improved the most were the ones who were the most engaged. The ones who did the homework participated in class and asked questions when they were unsure.

It requires that if you have a family, your family is understanding and supportive of you taking aside time during the week to do your homework. It also helps if your family can pick you up sometimes when your motivation is low.

If you’re taking a course for business purposes, such as a Business English course, it’s also helpful if your employer is supportive. Maybe they’ll let you take your lessons during work hours so you’re not too tired to do them. Or maybe they’ll even pay for them.

Fear of not making progress

Many people delay starting a language course because they’re afraid they won’t make any progress, which in effect would ultimately be a waste of money and time.

This usually comes from a lack of confidence, but also a fear of the unknown. If you don’t know exactly what the course will teach you or how you will learn, you can have some uncertainty wondering if you’ll actually get any benefits.

Previous negative language learning experiences

I’ve had many adult students be so surprised during their classes when they find out how fun a language course can actually be. They usually had very strict and uncaring teachers in the past, and it made them think that’s how all language courses are. 

Negative experiences can scar us and keep us from opening up to future experiences, possibly even great ones. Don’t let one bad apple in your past prevent you from eating fruit as an adult altogether.

The monetary cost

High-quality language lessons are not cheap, but they don’t have to be ridiculously expensive either. There are many providers who charge a very premium price, and truthfully those high prices are not always justified.

Whenever you’re browsing for a language course specialized for adults, it’s important to ask what you’re getting. What are they promising?

Are they offering you a service, or are they offering you a solution? What’s the difference you ask?

A service is English lessons with a teacher. A solution is English fluency in the workplace.

Any language course you take should have a program. A step-by-step curriculum that’s designed to take you to the level you want.

Many platforms won’t provide this. They’ll be content to just let you book lesson after lesson with no end in sight. This will be cheaper for you per hour, but it probably will end up costing you money in the long run if it takes you longer to reach your goals.

Many platforms offer “free” or cheap courses that are light on content, only to offer you the “good” course later on for much more money. The time wasted on the cheap course is a time investment you won’t get back.

I understand that some people are on a real shoestring budget. If you’re one of those people, I feel for you, and I encourage you to work with whatever you’ve got. You can learn a lot from free YouTube videos and free online resources. 

But if you have the money to invest in yourself and your career, don’t cheap out thinking you’re saving yourself a few bucks. We’re talking about skills that can greatly enhance your career-earning potential and life enjoyment. Find a course that delivers on the goals you want to achieve, not the cheapest one possible. 

I’m certainly not advocating you to go out and spend thousands of dollars or euros or whatever your currency is today on language lessons. But certainly don’t just go for the cheapest.

I try to keep all of our courses here reasonably priced, but on top of that, I offer monthly payments for each course. These aren’t “subscriptions” per se, just breaking the one payment up into smaller ones to make it more manageable for your budget.

adult online language classes

Finding an adult language course that will work for you

If you’re looking for an online English course, do I even have to say that I strongly recommend you check out our offering? Language learning is something I’m passionate about, and it shows in the lesson you’ll take. 

The courses are structured with busy adult professionals in mind, so you’ll be blown away at how easy it is to follow your course and stick to it. After all, I’m from Texas, so this isn’t my first rodeo.

If you’re looking for a language other than English, I’m working hard to bring other languages to the platform as soon as I can with good quality. But until then, I’m happy to give you a recommendation for a quality course from another provider. 

Just send me an email at [email protected] and I’ll be happy to help you start your language-learning journey, whatever language it may be.

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Lucas Weaver from the Weaver School

Lucas Weaver founded The Weaver School in 2016. He's passionate about using the latest learnings in neuroscience and education to create the best language learning experience possible for our students, so they can quickly build effective language learning habits that will last for years. Lucas is a graduate of Texas A&M University and after 7 years of living in the Netherlands, he is currently traveling through Southeast Asia while learning their languages along the way.

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