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Totally. Language learning is all time spent practicing. I’ve been learning a second language, while my two year old is learning his first. All day, he’s surrounded by people speaking with him and listening. Granted, he has other core concepts to pick up at the same time, but it’s essentially his job. Meanwhile, I can grab an hour here or there.

Plus, he has no embarrassment, hesitation, or fear of failure.






> Plus, he has no embarrassment, hesitation, or fear of failure.

This is key. I spent a period one summer in a Welsh immersion course. There were some very well-educated, clever Americans there (I would like to think I was one) and people from more polylingual parts of the world often with less explicit linguistic training. The latter tended to do much better chiefly because they set aside ego and tried to do what they were there to do: learn Welsh. The Americans were afraid to make mistakes and sound like idiots, so they didn't take the risk and consequently achieved less proficiency. The best learners were an Englishman (with a PhD in physics) who had shed his pride through thirty or forty years of vagrancy, and a Breton, who was just gifted with humility.


Would we (as adults) be able to learn a totally new language, unrelated to ours (say, Chinese, for those of us who speak Indo-European languages) just from being dropped in China and listening to conversations in Chinese all day? It would be an interesting experiment to do.

Only if you were given the attention a Chinese child gets.

In Spain, the immigrants that I talked to said it took them about 3 years to become proficient, and the first year was horrendous and hard as they could not communicate the essentials of daily life (going to stores, navigating public transit).

At twenty, I moved countries. I literally had to lie and say that I do not speak English to get the locals to speak to me in the local language.

Telling them that I'm Finnish worked well enough, until I was introduced to a Finn. That was one of the more awkward moments of my life!


You have to have the desire to improve and communicate, which a child who speaks no language has. Plenty of people live in language bubbles in foreign countries, and barely learn at all, but if you actually expose yourself to the language as much as possible, it definitely works.

> Plus, he has no embarrassment, hesitation, or fear of failure.

This is important. As adults who are likely experts in something, it can be very hard to put our egos aside and know nothing again.




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