How Long Does It Take to Learn a New Language?
Cristian in Language Tips
How many hours does it take to learn a new language if you are a native English speaker, how long before you achieve fluency in a foreign language?
English is the most international language on the globe. If you are a native English speaker chances are, you can get along quite comfortably in most western countries without learning a word in another language. In Europe especially, with enough luck, someone out there may know enough English to initiate and sustain basic communication situations.
But of course, for various other reason either personal, cultural or work-related, you will find yourself in need of learning a foreign language. The next natural question after deciding to learn a new language is: how many hours does it take to learn a foreign language and achieve fluency?
It depends a lot on how motivated you are and how much time you have at your disposal for such an endeavor. Depending on these two factors the time spent learning a new language vary greatly.
Interagency Language Roundtable scale or the IRL scale
It is grading scale used by the US government to scale employees and diplomats working for the FSI (Foreign Service Institute).
Youll find this scale to be the most accurate when it comes to native English speakers learning a foreign language.Level 0No proficiencyLevel 1Elementary proficiencyLevel 2Limited working proficiencyLevel 3Professional working proficiencyLevel 4Full professional proficiencyLevel 5Native or bilingual proficiency
Fluency is practically reached at level 3 (professional working proficiency), so basically, this level will be our main benchmark.
But first, we need to clarify a certain aspect of learning foreign languages as a native English speaker: some languages are more difficult to learn than others.
Why? Because English and some languages havent been in contact with one another for thousands of years and evolved in a totally different way.
Easiest language to learn for English speakers
The data presented below reflects a study held by FSI (Foreign Service Institute) of the US government. Again, this is probably the most accurate data regarding how much time takes for a native English speaker to become fluent in a particular new language.
The FSI has over 800 language learning courses in more than 70 languages with more than 70 years of experience in training US diplomats and foreign affairs employees.
Tier 1: Lets start with the languages that are most closely related to English
Germanic languagesAfrikaansabout 575 hours or 23 weeksDanishabout 575 hours or 23 weeksDutchabout 575 hours or 23 weeksNorwegianabout 575 hours or 23 weeksSwedishabout 575 hours or 23 weeks
Romance LanguagesFrenchabout 600 hours or 24 weeksItalianabout 600 hours or 24 weeksPortugueseabout 600 hours or 24 weeksRomanianabout 600 hours or 24 weeksSpanishabout 600 hours or 24 weeks
Even though FSI classifies all the above languages as having the same difficulty score and the same average time of learning (575-600 hours) it only makes sense that Germanic based languages like Danish or Dutch to be generally easier to learn compared with any of the Romance languages like Italian or Romanian.
But most of the languages above are highly easy to learn for very good reasons:
- use the same alphabet as English
- comparable stress and intonation patterns
- already share a number of vocabulary words
Tier 2: Similar to EnglishGerman750 hours or 30 weeks
Even though German is the most Germanic language of them all, it doesnt come very natural to learn for native English speakers.
The grammar is more complicated and difficult to understand, hence German gets a tier 2 difficulty score, but of course, there are other Germanic languages out there that are much harder to master, like Icelandic.
Tier 3: Languages that may have cultural and linguistic differences compared to EnglishIndonesian900 hours or 36 weeksMalaysian900 hours or 36 weeksSwahili900 hours or 36 weeks
Tier 4: Languages that are profoundly different from EnglishPolish1100 hours or 44 weeksCroatian1100 hours or 44 weeksLatvian1100 hours or 44 weeksGreek1100 hours or 44 weeksTurkish1100 hours or 44 weeksIcelandic1100 hours or 44 weeksFinnish1100 hours or 44 weeksEstonian1100 hours or 44 weeksHungarian1100 hours or 44 weeks
Above are just a part of the European languages classified as tier 4 FSI. The list goes on with other languages from all over the world, like Mongolian, Nepali, Thai, Xhosa, Zulu or Hebrew. All of them taking about 1100 hours or 44 weeks to become fluent in.
Hardest language to learn for English speakers
All of the tier 5 languages are highly sophisticated and complex compared to English having an average learning curve up to 4 times the period it takes for the average English speaker to learn Dutch for example. So arm yourself with a lot of patience and plenty of determination.
Based on all the data and testimonies English speakers made over the years, the hardest language to learn award may go to Japanese due to thousands of characters you need to memorize while having three different writing varieties.
Tier 5: Extraordinary level of difficultyArabic2200 hours or 88 weeksChinese2200 hours or 88 weeksJapanese2200 hours or 88 weeksKorean2200 hours or 88 weeks
But dont let all these statistics scare you! People around the world are learning and assimilating new languages every day. Besides, these are still human languages; its not like you need to decipher an alien dialect. All of the above are languages made up by humans, and with enough determination and willpower, you can learn any language on this list.
The above FSI statistics dont include the help of modern language learning aids like apps on your smartphone can bring to the table. In theory, today you can learn a foreign language much faster.
Mondly is one of the most popular language learning apps out there, offering courses in 33 languages, including all languages from tier 5 category. With Mondly you can greatly reduce the total amount of time it takes to learn a new language by practicing daily whenever you feel like it because everything is right there, in your smartphone, at all times.Learn a new language
Thiago B says:20 December 2021 at 5:45
Thanks for everyones concern. Im sorry its taken me so long to respond. I decided to move to Svalbard a remote island in the Arctic. Its a territory of Norway, so I learned Norwegian instead. I came to find my accent seemed off, and this is because the island actually has more Swedish speakers, so Ive learned my fair share of it too. Dont worry though, its lonely on Svalbard, so I take periodic trips to the Netherlands to get some dope and party with the sex workers there. I learned enough Dutch to talk dirty to them, but then I came to find they like me talking dirty to them in English. All I can say is I might not be fluent in any of these languages, except one the language of love. So now I too offer my services in the Netherlands, and it has been quite rewarding.Reply
Xochitl B. says:29 January 2022 at 5:28
I realize I am simply a mere mortal, but I hope you will permit me the chance to speak about the endless agony and torture that you have brought upon us all.
My son, when had we watched Spider Man together, I thought you had understood that with great power, comes great responsibility. But you reject this responsibility, yet continue to grow in immense power.
I was not planning to say your name in vain, but I think it is necessary. Oh my Thiago, oh my Thiago.
This power has consumed your soul and calloused your once beautiful heart. I constantly think back to the days when we were lovers and realize you have truly broken my heart to the point of no return.
Now I see another idol has displaced me. Not that of gold, but rather that of Dutch.
You have become so fluent in Dutch you have mastered the ability to decipher the brainwaves of any Dutch civilian, where you have access to the deepest and darkest places of the Dutch mind.
Now you use this to exploit and manipulate countless victims, in which many are not aware that you have penetrated their secrets.
This is why I am here today. Not for you Lord Thiago, rather for the good of the public. The public needs to be warned of you Thiago, and perhaps they need to understand what you are going to do in the near future.
I realize you may deeply be upset by this message and decide to execute me for it, but know this Thiago: Power can strengthen you in infinitely many ways but it can only weaken your heart.
Its hard to understand the extent of how much you enjoy watching people around you suffer as you torment them. You purposely do not respond to our many inquiries.
Now I will try to wipe you from your mind, but like many other victims, all day and night I can only think of you Lord Thiago. You have control of my brain and you have control of my deepest and darkest thoughts. When did you figure out I was Dutch?Reply
Emilia says:24 March 2022 at 1:13
Mother told me to never trust an Iago but alas I thought Thiago would be different. Long have I waited for an update on his progress night after night staring up into the sky thinking wherever he is, is he looking up at the same moon longing in Dutch too? But alas, I will never now for many moons I have heard no reply. My heart grows weak, my will wavers, will we never hear from you again? My father tells me to forget everyday but I will stay strong! I must know if you speak Dutch, it keeps me up at night, haunts me in my sleep and I know that one day you will return, sweep me into your arms and and say Ik heb geleerd! Ik heb geleerd!! and I will not know what you have said but will be proud of what you have done and we will be together forever til the our hair grows silver; me, you and your Dutch fluency.
Thiago-spiracy says:11 June 2022 at 0:10
Maybe just maybe we are looking at this the wrong way. Could it be that Thiago was not a man this whole time but a metaphor? Or maybe a message from a higher bilingual being.
We have conducted through analysis at our lab here and believe we have uncovered the true meaning of Thiagos message. As everyone knows thiago is pronounced phonetically as T-ya-go. Running this though our deep learning system we believe we have uncovered the true meaning of his name;
T -> clearly a reference to the delicious beverage served hot or cold.
Ya -> 21st century word for yes.
Go -> well self explanatory go is go.
Now if we examine the body of his message he gives thanks to some sort of Christian and then delights in the possibility of learning Dutch.
Putting the two together its clear that this comment was designed to subliminally make us drink tea, learn Dutch and submit ourselves to Christ?
Could this be an eloborate Jehovahs witness hoax!?