Learning & the Elderly

Our Centre is investigating the effects of ageing on language learning in individuals from multilingual Indigenous and migrant communities.

As we age, our cognition and hearing deteriorate. Hearing loss affects how we hear our native language and our conversations with others, especially in fast speech. Older listeners also have trouble understanding people with different accents, and are slower to learn to accommodate, but need this skill to work and live alongside accented speakers – problematic when many institutional carers speak English as a second language.

Little research has examined how these age-based changes are affected by the learning of additional languages. We will pioneer research into how bi- and multilingualism interact with ageing.

Previous research has shown that the language of older Indigenous speakers differs from that of younger speakers, and in creole-speaking areas, older speakers incorporate more traditional language into their speech. Recordings from older speakers will be analysed to pinpoint the differences.

In addition, we will survey older people‘s attitudes toward language change and document changes that relatives notice in the speech of older people, thus developing a research agenda to address individual and societal language loss in these communities, and engaging those working with older people in remote communities to understand the language challenges they face.

  • Australian Government
  • The University of Queensland
  • Australian National University
  • The University of Melbourne
  • Western Sydney University