As you might already know, the answer to this question is: “It depends.” Most languages take between three months and two years to learn to speak, write, and read fluently. Many factors influence the time that you need to master a language. In this article, you will find information about them.
The Foreign Language
Languages are divided into five categories of difficulty by the Foreign Service Institute. Each level determines how hard the language is and how much time is needed to gain fluent proficiency.
The higher the level, the more time you might need to learn it. The 1st category includes the easiest languages to learn – you will need around 600 hours to learn them, and that includes Afrikaans, Danish, Norwegian, Portuguese, and more. For comparison, the language from the 5th category needs to be studied for about 2200 hours to gain fluency. Some of those languages include Arabic, Japanese, and Korean.
Of course, aside from the language itself, there are more things that can influence your progress.
In learning a language, your background can play an important role. You might already have some transferable skills that can be useful when learning a new language. The majority of languages belong to families and groups. In Europe, there is the Germanic family, to which English belongs, the Romance family, and the Slavic family.
That means if you start learning a language that is somehow similar to English, for example, Norwegian, you will need less time than a person who only speaks, let’s say, Polish. On the other hand, a Polish person can learn Ukrainian more quickly compared to an English speaker.
Your previous exposure to the language you want to learn, for example, among your friends or family, can also influence how fast you will learn.
Your Mindset and Motivation
Yes, learning a language can be very interesting, but it is also repetitive and technical. During the process of learning, many people get bored and frustrated, especially when they don’t see as much progress as they expected.
At those hard moments, many people can feel discouraged and lose the motivation to learn. Be sure that you have the right mindset and stay motivated. Even if you don’t see great progress at the moment, keep going with your learning. With time and consistent learning, you will see amazing results.
Try to use positive self-talk, make a schedule that you can follow, or add some more interesting materials to your classes to stay engaged with the process.
There is something called xenoglossophobia. It’s foreign language anxiety. You can encounter it during travels, but also in the classroom. Be sure to address it with kindness.
Teachers and Resources
Having a person who will guide you through this hard journey is very important. Find a good teacher or a friend who can help you find the right methods and will support you all the way. Of course, the better your teacher is, the faster you can learn.
Instead of classes with a tutor, or as an addition to them, you can also find huge resources, also for free, to keep your language learning more interesting and effective.