How’s your Greek? While a Philomath is a lover of learning (also refers to a student of mathematics), an opsimath /ˈɒpsɪmaθ/ can refer to a person who begins, or continues, to study or learn late in life. The word is derived from the Greek ὀψέ, meaning ‘late’ and μανθάνω, meaning ‘learn’. 

Something I hear often from students as young as 40 years old is that they are too old to really learn a language well. And when someone hits 50 or 60 then they tell me it’s game over!

I used to be an agent for the Anglo Continental English School in Bournemouth, UK until I changed my mind. I remember the young enthusiastic sales representative visiting me at Idiomas Advantage in Barcelona and showing me the brochure with their courses.

What caught my eye was a course for mature students that promised courses specifically aimed at older people. So, are we talking about +60s? No, it was for the over 45s!!! I was 46 at the time… For 2022, they are now offering special Club + 50 English courses, which brings to mind some sort of holiday programme for old aged pensioners. Is this ageism or clever marketing? It’s a bit of both.

Separating teens and students in their early twenties from those above that age is generally a good idea as is providing specific courses for older business students with a certain number of years’ experience. Even business schools do this. But not creating an old people’s course.

This point is that there is a stigmatism and a belief that over 50s can’t learn languages (or anything new). It is true that cognitive funtions and memory are slower (but that depends if you still exercise that ‘muscle”!), but not enough to make learning significantly more difficult, especially when effective personal language learning strategies (PLLS) are used (as I explained in another post).

As well as the right strategies, motivation and a belief that “Yes I can”, are all you need to learn a language at any age. The best way to demonstrate this is through examples. Since turning 55 I have been learning a new language quickly and have increased my French level from B1.1 to B2.2 in under 18 months.

The best example of a language opsimath is probably Stephen Kaufmann (a Swedish born Canadian). He’s well know in polyglot circles for speaking about 12 languages well and having a working knowledge of about 8 more (depending on which vídeo you watch!). He had the advantage of studing in France and then working in many countries around the world throughout his life as a trade commisisioner and in the Canadian diplomatic service. However, he says that he started learning most of his languages from the age of 60. He’s 77 now and still learning new languages.

It’s literally “all in the mind.” You can learn languages well into your 70s and even 80s. So, if you are younger than that, stop making excuses about your age, and start learning a language.


And we won’t sell you a course for pensioners!

Senior man spends leisure time reading book sitting on the comfortable couch at cozy home. A gray-haired older man in eyeglasses immersed in reading

Deja un comentario

Este sitio web utiliza cookies para que usted tenga la mejor experiencia de usuario. Si continúa navegando está dando su consentimiento para la aceptación de las mencionadas cookies y la aceptación de nuestra política de cookies, pinche el enlace para mayor información. ACEPTAR

Aviso de cookies
× ¿Necesitas ayuda?