How Long Does it Take to Learn a Language?

how long does it take to learn a languageThere are any number of reasons a person learns a new language: it may be necessary for them to take it to graduate from school, maybe they’re planning on moving to a foreign country, or perhaps they just want to challenge themselves for the fun of it.

Whatever the reasoning behind the learning of a new tongue, many factors play into how long it takes to learn a new language, and there’s no set amount of time that it takes to learn any one language. Today, we will be discussing the various circumstances that go into learning a new language, and how they translate into time spent mastering it. If you’re a prospective polyglot (speaker of many languages), but only know English, consider Spanish as your first foreign language, and this article on the best ways to learn Spanish, as well as this course on Spanish for beginners will help you get started.

Factors That Effect Language Learning Time

Like we said before, and you could probably figure out yourself, there are many different factors that effect how quickly someone can master a language. The following issues should be considered when calculating the time it takes to become fluent, and remember that these aren’t meant to be hard and fast time frames.

  1. Difficulty of the Language: This is probably the most influential factor. It would be much more difficult for a German speaker to learn Chinese than it would be for an Italian to learn Spanish. Speaking in terms of native English speakers, there are four categories of difficulty that most languages fall into. Category 1, the easiest, contains languages such as Spanish, French, Italian, and Portuguese, languages that are Latin based, like English. Category 2 languages contain German, Indonesian, and Swahili. Category 3, languages with significant linguistic and cultural differences from English, contains Hebrew, Russian, Farsi, and Greek, among others. Finally, Category 4, characterized as “quite difficult” for English speakers, includes Arabic, Japanese, and other Asian languages.
  2. Study Habits: The length, intensity, and quality of your studying will all have a great influence on language learning time. A well-designed, distraction-free study routine will help you achieve your linguistic goals. Any study time is better than no study time, but to really accelerate the learning process, set aside time every day if you can, with no television or Internet. If you think you have what it takes to go it alone, this course on teaching yourself a foreign language will help save you some money in the learning process.
  3. Individual Ability: Anyone can learn a foreign language if they put forth the effort, but some are just more prone to learning languages than others. A big factor in this ability is age, and the earlier someone learns a second language, the better. People just learn differently at the age of five than they do at 15, at 25, 35, etc.

Taking these factors into consideration, you can extrapolate out how long it will take for someone to learn the different categories of language, given the amount of study time. For five hours of weekly study, Category 1 languages would take three years to master, Category 2 languages four years, Category 3, six years, and Category 4 eight years. For 10 hours of study a week, to learn the categories of language from one to four are one and a half years, two years, three years, and four years, respectively. Finally, with 20 hours of weekly study, the categories of language would take 10 months, one and a quarter years, one and a half years, and two years, respectively.


The quickest and most effective way to learn a language would be to immerse yourself in the land where the language is spoken. Not everyone has this opportunity, but even a quick jaunt to the country in question can have great effects on language proficiency, and can speed up the learning process greatly, even reducing it to less than a year with full immersion. This If you’d like to immerse yourself in a language while traveling, this course on traveling cheaply will help you save big bucks, no matter what currency you’re using.

Learning a language, especially later in life, can be a daunting task, and not all of us have the opportunity to learn by immersion. The rest of us have to crack the books and listen to teachers, and this way can take years. If you want to learn a new language, and can’t afford to move to a new country, this course on how to learn any foreign language will give you a head start.