Am I Too Old to Become Fluent in English?

You are never too old to become fluent in English
Am I too old to speak English fluently?

A couple of months ago, a friend of mine reached out to me with this question. I could tell by the tone of his voice that he was frustrated. Long story short, he had to deliver a presentation at work and it didn’t go as planned. He felt that he didn’t come through because he didn’t express himself as fluently as he wanted to. 

Since he'd been studying English for a while, he thought that his age might be the reason for his lack of progress.

Indeed, achieving higher levels of fluency is no easy task. I’ve struggled with it too. But if you’re having similar doubts, I want to reassure you: No, you’re not too old to speak English fluently. 

From my experience, it comes down to one’s attitude and not the age.

With that in mind, my friend made a few adjustments (to both, his attitude and learning plan) and after some time, he finally got over his block and started to experience progress.

So if you find yourself in this situation, here are some points you should tick off before deciding that you’re too old to improve your English speaking skills:

  • Think of it as an ongoing project (not a destination)

  • Get into the right mindset

  • Be honest about your goals

  • Experiment with different learning techniques

  • Design your learning strategy based on your schedule

  • Be kind to yourself and celebrate your victories! 

It’s time to move past your own prejudices. So let’s get started!

How to Develop Fluency in English

Think of English Fluency as an Ongoing Project 

There’s always room for improvement, new projects, and renewed interests. 

I don’t want to give you the wrong impression and lure you into believing it’s going to be an easy job. It won’t be, simply because the older we get, the more demanding our lives become. 

It goes without saying that as children, most of us didn’t have the responsibilities that come along with adulthood. 

Yes, learning a language might be easier for children since all their concerns revolve around studying. The context helps. 

So, even though improving fluency in English needs more effort as we get older, it doesn’t mean that it’s an impossible task.

As human beings, we’re constantly looking for purpose, a reason to keep us moving.

So why not think of learning English as a personal project? Putting your energy into a mentally challenging activity, like learning a new skill, will always have a positive effect on your life. It helps us stay motivated and enthusiastic, which in turn feeds our minds with positive thoughts.  

In any case, age cannot be reversed, so by devoting our attention and effort to something we can actually control, we find meaning and motivation.

Now, where can you start?

Get Into the Right Mindset

Develop a winning mindset.

You’ve probably heard it hundreds of times before but here it goes: optimism and determination truly pave the way. If you’re confident, you’re likely to keep on working until you’re successful, and when you’re faced with obstacles, you will find ways to overcome them, simply because you know you’re capable.

But confidence doesn’t happen spontaneously. In other words, we’re not born confident, it’s something that we have to build and cultivate.

Now, if you think you’re too old to embark on a new venture, then you’re probably not going to get too far. The barrier hindering your progress is in your mind and it will translate into your results.  

Suppose you stick to the social construct of doing only what’s ‘age-appropriate’, so you shut the door to new interests. Then what? You’ll still get older, that can’t be changed. But what you can change is what you think you can (and can’t) do as you get older. 

Think of it this way, you can be thirty-five and learning a language or thirty-five and not learning a language. The choice is yours.

Do you want real life examples? Think of JK Rowling. Before achieving worldwide recognition for the Harry Potter series, she hit rock bottom several times in her life, personally and professionally. Overcoming all obstacles, she kept trying until she finally succeeded. She was 32 by the time she got a deal with a small publisher for her first book. 

Perseverance always pays off. From my experience, the people who achieve what they set out to do are the ones who never quit trying.

Success is never a straight line, but full of twists and turns. And It’s definitely not dependent on your age. 

You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.
— C.S. Lewis

Be Honest About Your Goals

Improving our language skills might feel like a maze, I acknowledge that. 

But it’s also true that we tend to resort to excuses, which we end up believing when we’re too afraid to pursue a challenging goal. 

So, instead of asking yourself if you’re too old to become fluent in English, ask yourself: am I truly devoted to achieving this?

What I mean is: it’s one thing to say that you’re committed and another to show that commitment through actions. 

Before giving up, take a deep breath and reflect on what you’re doing to get results done. What am I doing to get to my goal? Is there anything else I can do?

The first step is to make up your mind. Do you really want to improve your English skills? If so, are you going to take serious action to make that goal happen?

Develop a habit and embrace the idea that practice makes progress”. The way I think about it, progress beats perfection.

Consistency can be difficult and painful, but it is the right path. You experience progress and reach higher levels of fluency with consistent practice.

For instance, you could decide to practice your speaking as much as possible, and commit to it even when you’re alone.

Or you could decide to build your vocabulary and create a short daily practice.

As you know, struggling to find the right expressions to communicate what we have in mind has a negative effect on our fluency. Naturally, the more words we know and practice using, the less likely we’ll get stuck when talking. This post has great tips on vocabulary learning to get you inspired.

Try out the recommendations and I guarantee you’ll see a great improvement. 

Experiment With Different Learning Techniques

Before you conclude that you’re not good at English, try changing your learning approach. 

For instance, you might be stuck because you haven’t worked with content that interests you.

What I’m trying to say is: a lot of the time people get stuck because they’re bored. But learning doesn’t need to be boring. For example, you could watch your favorite shows and imitate the pronunciation, take notes of any unfamiliar expressions, practice by repeating the dialogues, sing out loud or deliver a monologue to yourself, or even to others.

This takes me to one of my favorite strategies to improve speaking: recording yourself. I know, we all hate hearing our voice on tape but it’s such a useful exercise to spot your weaknesses and work on them. (And after a few tries, you’ll get used to your voice!) Start by repeating the same fragment over and over again until you master it.

If you need some inspiration, you can use one of our free worksheets. We design the worksheets to help you with your vocabulary and listening skills, and we always use real, authentic and practical examples. Also, make sure to subscribe to our newsletter and get alerts on new posts to stay up to date.

If instead you prefer private classes, you also have the option of booking one with a certified teacher directly on our site. 


Design Your Learning Strategy Based on Your Schedule

As adults, I acknowledge time can be scarce. 

Between house chores and work responsibilities, there’s hardly any space in our schedule for an extra activity. 

To develop the habit, start by relying on repetition. Find a time that works for you and set a reasonable time frame. Practicing once a week won’t really make a huge difference. If instead you practice 15 minutes a day, the recurrence will have more of an impact in terms of improvement. 

If you’re having trouble finding the time to practice speaking, I have some other helpful tips to share with you. 

I remember when I was learning English, and I was struggling to find the time to practice, so I would read during my bus rides. If I had some free time early in the day, I’d read posts, books or articles out loud while having breakfast. As I got busier, it worked for me to take little breaks between working hours to read an article of my interest.  

Why do I mention reading if we’re talking about speaking English fluently? Well they’re actually connected. When you read, you expand your vocabulary and that in turn helps your communication skills. 

Going back to my tips, something that made a difference for me was talking out loud while doing other things. I would think of a random topic and test my ability to come up with an acceptable answer. This is great for busy schedules because it’s not disruptive to your tasks.

The important thing is to remember is that your English ability (and learning in general) is like a muscle. If you train it, it will get stronger regardless of your age. 

Be Kind to Yourself and Celebrate Your Victories

Don’t forget to feed your mind with positive and encouraging thoughts. Celebrating your achievements regardless of how small they might be is important. It gives you an extra push to keep up the hard work.

Remind yourself of how valuable it is to take action towards your dreams. And remember, positive thoughts breed positive outcomes. 

If learning English and improving your fluency is important to you, stop focusing on your limitations and start working to make it happen!

About the writer

Sol is an English teacher and a self-professed grammar geek. As a writer for In English With Love, her mission is to create content that will help encourage and inspire English learners.

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