In life, learning never really stops because the world is constantly advancing, we need to keep updating ourselves mentally to adjust to the changes. However, the fear of learning something new exists in different areas for several people, especially as we get older. In this piece, Yasmin from the QA department shares her personal experience on how she was able to learn English at the age of 23 despite her fear of failure. She hopes that by sharing her story you would be encouraged to learn something new regardless of the age restriction.
Have you ever heard the words, "The human mind is never too old to learn new things?" As simple and direct as the statement is, it holds some truth. I say "some truth" because we can't deny that as one ages, the brain changes naturally, and acquiring new information can become more challenging.
However, that doesn't imply that it is impossible to acquire new skills as we age due to declining brain health.
Based on that context, I'll be sharing my personal experience on how I learned a new language at the age of 23, and I hope that my story will be a source of inspiration for anyone struggling to learn something new.
Learning Something New Begins with a Renewed Mindset
Opening yourself up to learning new things without seeing age as a limitation requires a renewed mindset.
According to Scott H. Young, "Even if our minds slow down as we get older, we accumulate more experience.” He also mentioned that it’s easier to become more knowledgeable as we age. Therefore, wisdom increases as one’s ability to learn and process new information declines.
Scott’s statement above clearly indicates that it's not impossible to learn something new regardless of some negatives associated with brain health as it connects to aging. So focusing on the positives rather than the negatives will help strengthen your zeal and mindset.
In this article published on the Fetchly blog, I shared tips on how to develop healthy habits while working remotely
, and I went into detail on how the thought of learning something new could be challenging, especially when you choose to have a different perspective toward learning, it can help to change that narrative.
To make it a bit clear, take a look at this example:
Technological advancement has left many of us with no choice but to learn how to use modern devices for essential purposes. And through an unconscious and smooth learning process, we have learned the basics of how several devices like smartphones, laptops, and even the internet works.
For many of us, learning to navigate different smartphone features was a fast process that we just happened to "figure out," but that shouldn't deter our minds from the fact that what we call "figuring things out" was indeed a learning process.
Therefore, if you can grasp how to use a device simply because you see the necessity of doing so, then there's no limit to what you can learn when you make up your mind.
My Experience with Learning English Language - The Early Stage
I didn’t take learning English seriously until I was 23. Before that time, I didn't think it was necessary for communication.
Most Brazilians have the opportunity to get their first contact with the English Language in school around the age of 11. I was a bit of a nerd. I had good grades and could take classes for five years. When learning English, I never learned anything beyond the verb 'to be'.
Towards the age of 14, I started private classes for more than a year. I had excellent grades and could memorize colors and numbers but I could not sing a song in English.
After taking all the extra classes, it bothered me that there was no significant improvement, and I thought I had a personal problem with the language.
Due to how challenging it was for me to learn English, I decided to give it up. I later discovered that I had made a terrible mistake. I recall making comments like, "English is not for me,” and reassuring my parents that I would stay focused at school and excel in other subjects. In my head, I thought there would never be a need to learn or use English, and I kept using such comments as an excuse not to try again.
English Returned to Haunt me
In my last year of college, I started thinking about acquiring a Master's Degree, and one of the requirements for my area of study is a second language. English was the only language that came to mind because I was already fluent in Portuguese. I had to face my nightmare again, except this time, I had a reason to try harder.
I decided to study English once I was done with college, and my mom came up with the idea of a cultural exchange to make the learning process faster.
Doing a usual exchange is quite expensive, but the option I found was an Au Pair exchange where I would work as a nanny while living with an English-speaking family. However, to be an au pair, it is a requirement that the applicant should at least know the basics of English to take a test before the visa can be granted.
I knew the regular classes didn't work for me, so I made the exchange work.
The Learning Process
The internet was my primary tool for learning English. I read a lot of articles, listened to music, watched movies, and used an online tool to talk with native English-speaking teachers. I was consistent with my approach to learning, and soon enough, my efforts started to pay off, and it surprised me how fast I could pick it up.
After three months of learning, I took the au pair exchange test, which went well. I passed the basic English test and got my visa a few weeks later.
Though I learned the basics, significant progress in improving my English came after I traveled to the US and lived with an American family. I noticed my progress was faster because I had several one-on-one interactions with people, went to college, took some English classes, and ensured I had fun.
A New Opportunity for Growth
When I returned to Brazil, I began job hunting online and found a Report Analyst role at Fetchly Labs. I thought I would never get the position because I felt my English could improve. Regardless, Michael Huey (CEO of Fetchly Labs) looked beyond my English-speaking abilities and gave me the role!
After five months of working as a report analyst, I was moved to the QA department, where I work as a Quality Assurance analyst. I always have the help of my fantastic team to improve my English when needed. Life took a different turn for me because I would never have imagined that I would work full time and communicate in the same language that, just a few years back, I assumed I could never learn.
Learning something new can be challenging for anyone. In my case, I was so scared of failing that I thought I would never learn, mainly because I was learning a second language at a much older age than many people. Regardless, I firmly believe that anyone can learn a new skill, language, or even know how to read, provided they:
- See the skill or opportunity as a necessity.
- Devise a learning strategy that works for them.
- Stay consistent with the learning plan.
- See the potential for success rather than dwelling on the possibility of failure,
- Most of all, try to have fun throughout the process.
*This is not the official Fetchly opinion but the opinion of the writer who is employed by Fetchly*