Why Are Adults Bad At New Languages?

Thanks to the University of Minnesota for sponsoring this video!

Learning a new language as an adult is harder than doing so as a child because adults usually aren’t as invested and often use the wrong strategies.

Thanks also to our Patreon patrons and our YouTube members.
To learn more, start your googling with these keywords:
Second-Language Acquisition: The process of a language that’s not the speaker’s native language.
Bilingualism: The ability to speak and understand two languages.
Monitor Model: A group of hypotheses that propose that linguistic competence is only advanced when language is subconsciously acquired.
Sociolinguistics: The study of language in relation to all sorts of social factors.
Linguistic Investment: A motivation to learn a language based on the understanding that the speaker will acquire a wider range of symbolic and material resources, which will in turn increase the value of their cultural capital and social power.
Hyperpolyglot: A person who can speak and understand more than six languages.
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Credits (and Twitter handles):
Script Writer, Editor and Video Editor and Narrator: David Goldenberg (@dgoldenberg)
Video Illustrator: Arcadi Garcia Rius (@garirius)
With Contributions From: Henry Reich, Alex Reich, Kate Yoshida, Ever Salazar, Peter Reich, Julián Gómez, Sarah Berman
Music by: Nathaniel Schroeder:



Hartshorne, J., Tenenbaum, J., and Pinker, S. (2018). A critical period for second language acquisition: Evidence from 2/3 million English speakers. Cognition. 177: 263-277. Retrieved from:

Bigelow, M., and Tarone, E. (2004). The Role of Literacy Level in Second Language Acquisition: Doesn’t Who We Study Determine What We Know? TESOL Quarterly. 38(4): 689-700. Retrieved from:

Darvin, R. and Norton, B. (2015). Identity and a Model of Investment in Applied Linguistics. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics. 35: 36-56. Retrieved from:

Pierce, B. (2015). Social Identity, Investment, and Language Learning. TESOL Quarterly. 29(1): 9-31. Retrieved from:

Derakshan, A. (2015). The Interference of First Language and Second Language Acquisition. Theory and Practice in Language Studies. 5(10):2112-211. Retrieved from:

Rao, P., and Knaus, E. (2008). Evolution of Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs): Cyclooxygenase (COX) Inhibition and Beyond. Journal of Pharmaceutical Science. 11 (2): 81-110. Retrieved from:

Bigelow, M. (2019). Personal Communication. Department of Curriculum and Instruction. University of Minnesota.

Paesani, K. (2019). Personal Communication. The Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition. University of Minnesota.

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