This month we will be publishing Third Age Learners of Foreign Languages edited by Danuta Gabryś-Barker. In this post she discusses the main themes addressed in her book.
The initial inspiration for compiling a volume on third age learners of foreign languages as is often the case, is derived not only from professional interests and scholarly events devoted to a given issue, but also importantly from a strong personal attachment and enthusiasm for the subject matter.
Approaching a senior’s age and searching for (new) options in life, we all look (or will look) for new challenges and more fulfilment, perhaps in different areas, discovering new interests and pastimes, making more friendships and generally socialising beyond our families and long-standing professional relationships. This volume gathers researchers whose professional lives are in full swing and distant from the third age, but also those who, although still extremely active and successful professionally, are entering the later stages of their lives. For these latter people, being active mentally throughout life while looking at third age characteristics leads them into areas of research personally relevant for them.
Foreign language learning can undoubtedly be a chosen area of activity later in life. This form of learning is strongly determined not only by the need to keep one’s brain active (which is assumed to keep you healthier longer!), but also by present day globalisation processes, mass migrations, mixed-marriages and, perhaps not least, grandchildren who do not speak the language of their grandparents anymore and so grandparents must decide to make an effort to make intergenerational communication possible. I wish them the best of luck!
It is also important to remember that ageing populations need to be taken care of and the Third Age Universities, for which I have a lot admiration, do a great job in promoting the quality of life of seniors. One of the options offered by these institutions – and which is becoming more and more attractive to seniors – is foreign language instruction, which has been gaining popularity among this age group for the personal reasons given above.
However, there is a serious question we need to ask. As the promotion of FL instruction for seniors is gaining popularity, how well-informed are we, and how much do we know about the process of FL learning in the third age? How can we make this process effective and satisfactory to late learners? No effort should be spared to maximise potential here! Thus, this volume aims to comment on seniors’ characteristics and their (FL) learning processes, as well as to offer some guidelines on how to teach an FL to this age group. I hope reading about these different aspects of the issue, as presented in this volume, will not only be informative but also enjoyable and inspirational, as it was for me when working on this book together with all its contributors.
Danuta Gabryś-Barker, University of Silesia, Poland