Learning a foreign language allows you to deepen your connection with other cultures and communicate with a wider range of people in their native language. Knowing a new language also puts you in a great position to advance your personal, career, and business interests. However, a good number of people wonder how long it will take them to learn a new language.
Depends Upon the Language in Question
The Foreign Service Institute has established the average length of time that a student may take to achieve proficiency in a new language. However, the actual time it takes to learn a foreign language will depend on several factors. These include:
Category One Languages
This category comprises of Western European languages that are linguistically and typologically similar to English. As such, these languages can be said to have a close relationship with English, a factor that makes them relatively easier to learn. The languages include Danish, Dutch, French, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish, and Swedish. It will take between 24 and 30 weeks, or 600 and 750 class hours, of intense study for a native English speaker to be proficient in these languages.
Category Two Languages
Compared to category one languages, category two languages have relatively more complex grammar. However, they are still similar to English. For an English speaker, these languages are categorized as more difficult to learn than the ones in category one and will take a student a relatively longer time to be proficient. On average, learning the languages in this category will take 36 weeks or 900 class hours. The languages that make up this category are German, Malay, Haitian Creole, Indonesian, and Swahili.
Category Three Languages
Languages in category three are considered hard languages since they have significant cultural and linguistic differences from English. There are a good number of languages that fall under this category. They include Albanian, Amharic, Armenian, Bulgarian, Czech, Finish, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Mongolian, Polish, Russian, Slovak, Slovenian, Somali, Thai, Tibetan, Turkish, Ukrainian and Vietnamese. Learning these languages will take approximately 44 weeks or 1100 class hours.
Category Four Languages
The last grouping of languages is category four languages. The languages in this category are considered super-hard, meaning that they are exceptionally difficult for native English speakers to learn. On average, it will take 88 weeks or 2200 class hours to be proficient in the languages. This group is made up of Arabic, Chinese-Cantonese, Chinese-Mandarin, Japanese, and Korean. While Mandarin grammar is nearly as complicated as some of the European languages, it is the complex Chinese writing system that places it in this group. It is important to note that Japanese is more difficult to learn than the other languages in this category.
How Much Do I Need to Study Each Day?
Apart from the time that a learner spends with the language, the attitude of the learner and their attentiveness to the language will determine the time it takes to learn the language.
Generally, ten hours a day could be a reasonable amount of time to spend learning a new language. However, you may want to vary the activities to avoid burnout and improve concentration. For instance, start your day by engaging in alternate listening, reading, and vocabulary review between 8 and 12 o’clock. Take some rest, exercise, and have lunch for two hours while listening to the language. From two to three o’clock, spend time doing grammar review before switching to writing for an hour. Talk to an online tutor or the locals if possible from four to five o’clock, before resting for two hours. From seven to ten o’clock, you can relax in the language by watching movies, listening to songs, or going out with friends learning the language, depending on availability.
While it takes time to learn a new language, an intense program has numerous benefits and can help you achieve basic conversational fluency in two and three months for easy and difficult languages, respectively. In case you do not have much time, consider input-based listening during your dead time to help you get used to the language.
Can an Adult Achieve Fluency?
A common myth that full-grown adults cannot become fluent in a second language has existed for a long time. This belief has been given new life in the recent past, with the media referring to a study that appeared to suggest that people above 18 years of age cannot achieve fluency in a second language. However, these claims are not true.
To start with, fluency is the ability to speak and write a foreign language easily and accurately. While it may be challenging for adults to learn a new language to the point where they can communicate with a native speaker, it is not entirely impossible because basic fluency in a language is different from the grammatical fluency of a native speaker. As such, adults can achieve fluency in a second language, with some reports indicating that adults can achieve remarkable mastery nearly as quickly as children. Some studies have revealed that most people can learn a new language in about five years, regardless of age. However, it is important to note that starting the learning process earlier offers some advantages, with such learners being in a better position to master the language grammar just as well as the native speakers.
Although it gets harder to learn a new language as you get older, it is not because of missing the said fluency age cutoff. It may be as a result of circumstances such as memory loss and progressive cognitive decline. Due to work and family responsibilities that come with adulthood, full-grown adults will have less time to dedicate to learning a second language. The process will be more like a hobby, with a good number of adults lacking the motivating force to put in the work required.
Professional Translation Services Across Many Languages
As much as you may not sound like a native speaker, if you pick up a new language in your adult life, you can become fluent if you are willing to put in the work. Therefore, this myth should not stop you from learning a new language. At etcetera-translations.com, we provide translation services to help you communicate with clarity and accuracy across a language barrier. Contact us today to learn more about our services.