How Long Does It Take To Learn A Language

How long does it take to learn a language?

The answer to how long does it take to learn a language is quite a complex one. There will be various factors at play, and of course, you would need to decide what learning a language actually is. For example, some people claim that they have learned a language when they are fluent in speaking it, however, they may struggle to read or write the language. For other people, you would need to be fluent in speaking, reading and writing before you say you are ‘fluent’ in a language. Obviously, the second situation will mean that you require much more learning time.

One major factor which is going to influence the answer to how long does it take to learn a language is how similar the target language is to your own. For example, since you know English you would find that it is much easier to learn languages such as German as they both share similar roots and thus have a similar grammatical structure. You will find it takes longer to learn ‘romance’ languages such as French and Spanish as their word structure is completely different, although with French there may be some overlap in words. It would certainly take you far longer to learn languages such as Mandarin which bears no real resemblance to the language that you speak at the moment.

Learning a language without being ‘immersed’ in an environment i.e. actually living in a country has been estimated to take around 2 years, providing that you put a lot of effort in, and attend classes which are taught by a native speaker. If you are living in a country then you could probably be able to communicate with a decent amount of fluency within around six months, again, you would need to put the effort in. You most likely will not come up to the ‘fluency’ of a native speaker for at least a decade or so though, remember, there is a lot to learn and you won’t be able to pick it up quickly.

Writing and reading is not something that many people focus on when learning a language, hopefully it comes naturally though. To have a decent sense of proficiency in this could take a similar amount to speaking, although of course you will not be as ‘advanced’ in what you can do, and will mainly be tackling simple texts. This is a skill that needs to be worked on in itself, and could take a number of years before you are incredibly experienced and can tackle harder things.

Ultimately, how long does it take to learn a language will depend on you, and you alone. If you really put your mind to it, and constantly expose yourself to a language then you may find that you can speak it with relative ease within about 6 months, although as mentioned before, you would really need to be living in a country that speaks that language in order to get to this stage. In order to become as fluent as you can be in reading and writing then you may want to add a year or so onto that time, although it will still be at a fairly basic level. However, you should remember that the more effort you put in, the quicker the whole process will be.

Good luck learning your new language!

How Long Does It Take To Learn A Language

  • Sionnach

    I disagree with much of this comment. While many German words are somewhat recognizable to English speakers, the structure of the language is very different. An English speaker will have a very tough time with modal verbs, split verbs, and, in particular the various cases -nominative, dative, accusative and genitive – which one must master to learn German. It is much easier to understand the structure of French or Spanish.

    Additionally, being able to hear and speak a language are the most difficult parts of learning. You can’t force the development of the ‘ear’ for a language. It comes when it comes. Most adults find that reading ability is the easiest part of a language to acquire.

    Functional ability in most European languages will require at least a year, and more likely two or more years of daily work for most people. Fluency will take longer, and most adult learners will never achieve native fluency.