Some people dream of Italian dripping off their tongue with ease. Others wish for the depth of Mandarin, inviting them into a culture that stretches over thousands of years. Whatever your desire, it’s admirable to learn a new language at any age. If you think that learning a new language as a senior is impossible, think again! Our brains are made to be adaptable at any age, and there are countless benefits to learning a new language in your golden years.

Depending on why you want to learn a new language and your comfort with computers or smartphones, there are lots of ways to go about the challenge. If you’re seeking conversational ease in a new language, you’ll want to pick a more intensive learning option. If you simply want to be able to decode the menu on your next holiday and order the correct number of pastries, you can pick something casual, like a smartphone game-style app.

Language courses

If you really want to learn a language, you’ll likely need a teacher and the opportunity to practice in a natural setting. In this case, language courses are your best bet. While there probably won’t be a course specifically for learning a new language as a senior, there are plenty of options for both in-class and distance education courses. Check with your local community centre, college or university, or any cultural groups in the area.

Video and audio tutorials

A quick Google search will turn up thousands of options for learning via audio or video tutorials. These can be helpful if you like to hear (and see) the language being used. It’s also easy to pick a specific video or lesson that’s confusing to you and focus on that, rather than the language as a whole. If computers aren’t your thing, you can often find DVD or CD copies of this kind of course at your local library or bookstore.

Language learning software

Rosetta Stone has long held the title of “best language learning software” and for a good reason. If you’re interested in self-study, this software can help you learn a language — from conversational vocabulary to proper grammar — without ever having to talk to another person. If the idea of speaking to someone and messing up horrifies you, this could be an excellent place to start. Eventually, you’ll need to work up the nerve to talk to a real person, though!

Smartphone and web apps

Looking for a more casual — and fun — approach to language learning? Why not try one of the many smartphone or web apps out there. These “game-ified” learning experiences help you get started with a new language. Apps like Duolingo, busuu, and Memrise turn learning into a game, complete with levels and achievements. You likely won’t become fluent through one of these, but they’re a great place to start. Many of them are free (or partially free), and you can use it as a way to test how much you like learning that language.

Books, flashcards, and self-study

Some things never change. Generations have sworn by good old-fashioned books and paper when they want to learn a new language, and it still holds up today. You’ll need a lot of discipline to stick with it long enough to get comfortable with a language, but this tried-and-true language learning method is a favourite for many learning a new language as a senior.


Whatever your method, remember that there are advantages to learning a new language as a senior. What method are you using to learn a new language? What inspired you to do so? Share with us in the comments below!

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