How Long Does It Take to Learn a Language?

12 July 2023

I’m sure we would all love to download a language into our brain like Neo in The Matrix! But unfortunately, it’s not as simple as that. The question "How long does it take to learn a language?" can vary from person to person and there are several factors to consider. In this blog, we'll explore those factors and provide some insights to help you set realistic expectations.

The complexity of a language plays a significant role in determining the time required to learn it. Languages with similar grammar structures and vocabulary to your native tongue might be easier to grasp. For example, an English speaker learning Dutch or German may find certain similarities that accelerate the learning process. On the other hand, a language with a completely different linguistic structure, such as Mandarin or Arabic, may require more time and effort.

Alternative Description

The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) recommends, for a complete beginner, 200 hours to achieve an A2 Basic level, 600 hours to achieve B2 Independent level and around 1000+ hours to achieve Advanced proficiency.

Prior Language Learning Experience:

However, your previous language learning experiences can influence how quickly you pick up a new language. If you have already learned a foreign language, you'll likely have developed effective study techniques and an understanding of language acquisition processes. These skills can significantly reduce the learning curve and accelerate your progress when learning subsequent languages.

Time and Dedication:

Also, the amount of time and dedication you invest in learning a language will directly impact your progress. Learning a language requires regular practice, exposure to native speakers, and consistent effort. Daily practice sessions, utilising language learning resources, engaging in conversation exchanges, and immersing yourself in the language through movies, music, and literature can all contribute to faster language acquisition.

Language Proficiency Goals:

The level of language proficiency you aim to achieve also affects the learning timeline. Basic conversational fluency can typically be attained in a shorter time frame compared to achieving a high level of proficiency, which requires more comprehensive vocabulary, advanced grammar, and nuanced cultural understanding. Setting clear goals for your language learning journey will help you stay motivated and track your progress effectively.

Learning Methods and Resources:

The effectiveness of your learning methods and resources can significantly impact the time it takes to learn a language. Traditional classroom instruction, online language courses, language exchange programmes, mobile apps, and immersive experiences all offer unique benefits. Finding the approach that aligns with your learning style and preferences can optimise your language learning experience and speed up your progress.

The question of how long it takes to learn a language doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all answer. Your starting point, the complexity of the language, your learning goals, available resources, and dedication all play crucial roles. It's essential to approach language learning with patience, perseverance, and a growth mindset.


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