The difficulty of learning the foreign language is individual. Someone takes only several months for learning a foreign language, but on the other side, someone takes a few years for learning. But, the question is at what age is easiest to learn a second language?
The most famous and widely spread attitude is that children learn the fastest and the easiest a new language. This opinion is especially prominent when we have bilingual children. In fact, studies have shown that adolescents and adults are in many ways better at learning a new language than children, except in the area of pronunciation. One study from York University it confirmed to a certain extent. Still, this particular confirmation is more about the available time and motivation that the children do have and adults no. The children are not burdened with daily obligations like adults. They can spend more time and effort, unlike the others. But this study couldn’t give the answer is there any particular time frame for easier languages overcoming. That is what exactly want to research linguist Monika S. Schmid with her colleagues from the University of Groningen, The Netherlands.
They conducted a study by using brain scans and innovative statistical methods to find ( if there is any ) specific critical period for learning languages. They have focused on the effect of age on grammatical processing in second language learners. Namely, researchers noticed one very important characteristic before they conducted research: even very good older language learners differ from younger ones when it comes to using grammar correctly and consistently. Although, adult learners quickly absorb new words, seems that they have trouble with applying basic grammar rules. For example, often can’t differ “I have lived in Miami for two years” from “I lived in Miami for two years”. On the other hand, it seems easier for children to implement the rules of grammar.
The scientist used the comparative method of analysis, called generalized additive modeling. They analyzed brain activity of 29 native speakers and 66 second-language learners by using the EEG signals. The participants had to listen to grammatically correct and incorrect sentences. Native speakers have shown strong brain activity whenever they heard mismatches, while second language learners show no any reactions. This was particularly expressed in older participants. So, the results indeed suggest that our capacity to learn a language diminishes gradually over our lives.
So what is the best age for a person to start learning a foreign language in situations where there is a choice, and where it is not critical that a native-speaker-like pronunciation is acquired? The answer, according to current research, is early adolescence, so about 11-13.