As an EFL teacher, I’ve taught groups of young people who were attentive and serious about learning English. And I’ve taught groups of people over 55 who gave me more trouble than adolescents. There is no perfect correlation between aging and learning. It is generally, accepted, however, that younger people learn languages faster.
When you set out to study English or any other language abroad, you probably don’t give much thought to the dynamics of the group you’ll be in. But the dynamics of the group-how well the students bond with each other-will affect the teaching and learning of English.
It shouldn’t be, perhaps, but age can have a lot to do with the dynamics of a language group. There are advantages to being in a class with people of your own age-and there are other advantages to being with people older and/or younger than you are.
While group placement usually depends on the language level of the students and not their age, think about these choices before you enroll in the language school you’re considering. Here are the pros and cons of being in a mixed age group versus learning English in a so called-Club 55 group.
You’re a good candidate to be in a mixed-age group if:
-There really is a mixture; you’re not the only older person or the sole younger person.
– You find all ages invigorating and have friends of all ages in your regular life.
– You have something to do while not in school. If you’re an older person, you probably won’t be invited to go drinking with the 20-year-olds outside of class.
- Younger language learners are expected to be faster learners. However, the older folks can surprise you. If you’re an older learner mixed in with younger adults, don’t be too hard on yourself if it takes you a bit longer to catch on. On the other hand, if you’re a younger learner, be tolerant if someone older takes a bit longer.
You’re a good candidate for a same-age language group if:
-You would be more confident about speaking in class if you were with people your own age.
– You usually socialize with mostly people of your own age.
- You hope to make friends in the group and keep In touch after the group ends.
– You plan on getting together with your classmates out of school for dinner or other activities.
What happens if you find yourself in the wrong age group?
– Try to prevent this by finding out how the groups are formed. If you’re older, is there an age group for mature students?
– Give it a try. A class is the worst place to go by first impressions. By the end of your first class– typically three hours, you’ll have a good idea if this class will work for you. Another reason to stick it out is that in the real world, you’ll be speaking English with people of all ages. This class will, therefore, provide you with real-world language experience.
- Go for private lessons. In this case, you don’t have to worry about age except for that of your teacher–and that shouldn’t make a difference.
Ilene Springer lives and teaches EFL in Malta and is author of An-American-in-Malta.com.