Having studied Italian with Cactus in Manchester on and off for more than 5 years Helen O’Brien talks to Cactus’ Dorotea about why learning a language over the age of 50 keeps her feeling good.
How long have you been studying Italian with us and what made you start?
I’ve been studying Italian with cactus on and off for 5 years. I joined a friend who wanted to start learning but didn’t want to go alone; although she stopped going to class, I continued and 5 years on here I am.
I didn’t want to take any exams or be graded, nor did I want to study under pressure; I just wanted to learn Italian for my personal enjoyment so this was a good fit.
What do you enjoy the most when you go to class?
I like the feeling of always doing something productive with my brain, to keep it active; I really enjoy learning despite the fact that I am not a fast learner, and my teacher, Sara Roman, is very good, so I feel very comfortable and in my element when in class.
What difficulties have you faced as an adult learner?
I find that some people pick a language up more easily, often because they have spouses or friends who help them. I work, I am older and very busy s I don’t do as much homework and I don’t get to practice as much. However this doesn’t naturally hinder my learning- it just means that I am slower, it just takes me a little longer.
What do you think about people who say it’s too late to start learning a language?
It is absolute rubbish! It’s never too late for anything; even if it takes some people longer to learn, it really doesn’t matter, and there are so many benefits to learning a new language, whatever the age. When you do travel to the country you can use what you learned without feeling silly, which is a rewarding feeling, and things come back to you more than you would think.
What benefits are there for learning a language after the age of 50?
I think it keeps you young; doing anything after that age keeps you active and keeps your mind alert, there are just no disadvantages. Aside from learning Italian I also sing in a quire, work full time and take dance lessons; all these things help me remain active and make me feel good.
How far do you feel you have come?
It has taken me a long time, but I have come a long way. I have never ever quit and that has paid off; that’s the thing about learning anything and particularly a language, the secret is to never give up on it, the results to come in due time.
What future goals have you set yourself, and how do you feel our tutors will help you in achieving these?
I have progressed to the Upper Intermediate level and I think it’s going to be difficult for me because of course as you continue it becomes more challenging. However the way Sara conducts her class is very conducive to my improvement; I can always ask her questions knowing that she will not become irritated, and she isn’t in the slightest bit intimidating. I look forward to my next course this April.
Cactus language offers the following types of language courses:
Evening language courses: 19 different languages in 15 UK locations
Language holidays: worldwide immersion courses in the country of the language
Private tuition: tailor-made and corporate language training solutions throughout the world
TEFL: teacher training courses for both English and other languages all over the world
Online courses: for teacher training, English and French