A Focus on Specific Learning and Teaching Methods for Older Adult Foreign Language Learners

By Emilie Martinez.

Published by The International Journal of Aging and Society

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

While new neuro-psychological research emphasizes the benefits of foreign language learning on the aging brain, very few methods have been developed specifically for older foreign language learners. In addition to the problems of pronunciation and listening comprehension encountered by many older learners, major deficits appear in commonly used teaching materials; many visual and auditory materials do not match elderly learners’ interests and everyday life experiences. Another important issue when working with older learners is resistance to changing their learning habits. Recent methods such as communicative language teaching banish translation into the native language — the method most older people are familiar with — and instead request that learners quickly develop speaking skills by using the foreign language in the early learning stages and interacting in authentic contexts. My paper describes specific methods that I have found particularly efficient in teaching French, German, and English to people over sixty years old in Germany and in Spain, independent of learners’ educational backgrounds. Focusing on the development of motivation and self-confidence, as well as speaking and listening skills, this paper includes criteria for picking appropriate topics and advice on how to use a wide range of mediums in the foreign language classroom to benefit older learners.

Keywords: Aging Brain, Older Adult Foreign Language Learners, Self-confidence, Older Learners

The International Journal of Aging and Society, Volume 2, Issue 4, pp.103-111. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 441.646KB).

Emilie Martinez

PhD Candidate, Teacher of German as a Foreign Language and German Literature, Department of German as a Foreign Language, Friedrich Schiller University, Jena, Thuringia, Germany