do children really learn faster than adults?
you may have heard:
"children learn faster than adults. children's brains are more flexible and have higher neuroplasticity"
most of us take this for granted, but it doesn't tell the whole story
children are fast learners, but adults are more effective learners overall
🗣 research shows that adults learn languages to fluency nearly as well as children, given the same amount of practice1. it's less common to learn a language from age 20 to 40 -- but those who do reach similar fluency to those who learn from age 5 to 25. children usually spend much more time immersed & learning.
📚 reading speed & comprehension — a direct measure of learning ability — steadily increases with age2
🃏 spaced repetition, a learning technique designed to optimize our brains time to learn, doesn't work as well for young children3 e.g. Anki, which is used mostly by med-school students & adults learning languages
😤 kids can be stubborn or rebellious, undergo hormonal changes, among many other variables, which interfere with their ability & desire to learn
the benefit children have is minor in most cases (a few percentage points, not a factor of 2) and that advantage is often outweighed by other factors
imagine these two:
 a child who just began reading books at a 3rd grade level.
 a college-graduate adult who has studied higher level english, math, and sciences in university.
it should be obvious, if you compared these two in many learning tasks,
the adult would outperform the child and learn faster, with less time spent on the basics.
🍎 you usually can't compare kids learning apples-to-apples with adults. children focus on learning basic skills like how to write & read, which is a more fundamental learning, albeit less advanced, than understanding a complex math concept.
🏃 kids do learn fast. but they usually have further to go from their starting point
📊 new information for children is a higher percent of their overall knowledge. changes are a much bigger difference and require more flexibility
🤔 adults, on the other hand, have more pre-existing knowledge and a more developed brain to easily integrate new information
once a negative term, the discouraging bias against adult learning doesn't make make sense when analyzed
adults are, overall, better learners than children.
consider learning something new, you can become better than almost anyone else in an area with enough time