How Long Should it Take to Learn a Language?
Language learning depends mostly on three factors: the attitude of the learner, the time available, and the learner’s attentiveness to the language.
If we assume a positive attitude and reasonable and growing attentiveness to the language on the part of the learner, how much time should it take to learn a language?
How Long to Learn a Language?
FSI, the US Foreign Service Institute, divides languages into groups of difficulty for speakers of English:
French, German, Indonesian, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish, Swahili
Bulgarian, Burmese, Greek, Hindi, Persian, Urdu
Amharic, Cambodian, Czech, Finnish, Hebrew, Hungarian, Lao, Polish, Russian, Serbo-Croatian, Thai, Turkish, Vietnamese
Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Korean
FSI has 5 levels of proficiency
The person is able to satisfy routine travel needs and minimum courtesy requirements.
Limited working proficiency
The person is able to satisfy routine social demands and limited work requirements.
Minimum professional proficiency
The person can speak the language with sufficient structural accuracy and vocabulary to participate effectively in most formal and informal conversations on practical, social, and professional topics.
Full professional proficiency.
The person uses the language fluently and accurately on all levels normally pertinent to professional needs.
Native or bilingual proficiency.
The person has speaking proficiency equivalent to that of an educated native speaker.
On this scale, I would call limited working proficiency above basic conversational fluency.
FSI research indicates that it takes 480 hours to reach basic fluency in group 1 languages, and 720 hours for group 2-4 languages.
If we are able to put in 10 hours a day to learn a language, then basic fluency in the easy languages should take 48 days, and for difficult languages 72 days. Accounting for days off, this equates to two months or three months time. If you only put in five hours a day, it will take twice as long.
If you were to study 10 hours a day…
Is ten hours a day reasonable to learn a language? It could be.
Here is a sample day:
8-12: Alternate listening, reading and vocabulary review using LingQ, Anki or some other system.
12-2: Rest, exercise, lunch, while listening to the language.
2-3: Grammar review
4-5: Talk via skype or with locals if in the country
7-10: Relaxation in the language, movies, songs, or going out with friends in the language. depending on availability.
To some extent the language needs time to gestate and often things we study today do not click in for months. On the other hand, intensity has its own benefits. I have no doubt that someone following this intense program, or something similar, would achieve basic conversational fluency in two months for easy languages, and three months for difficult languages.
To go from level 2 to level 4, or full professional fluency would take quite a bit longer, perhaps twice as long for easier languages and 4 times as long for the more difficult languages.
Learning Languages on LingQ to Achieve Fluency Faster
Immersing yourself in a new language doesn’t require you to travel abroad or sign up for an expensive language program.
However, it can be a time-consuming to find interesting content, go back and forth between sites, use different dictionaries to look up words, and so on.
That’s why there’s LingQ. A language app that helps you discover and learn from content you love.
You can import videos, podcasts, and much more and turn them into interactive lessons.
Keep all your favorite content stored in one place, easily look up new words, save vocabulary, and review.
LingQ is available for desktop as well as Android and iOS. Gain access to thousands of hours of audio and transcripts and begin your journey to fluency today. Click one of the links below to find out…