languagejunkies (languagejunkies) wrote,

How Long Does It Really Take To Learn A Second Language?

It is a fact that no human being takes birth in this world learning to speak. In fact the process of learning a language is an evolutionary process. The mother tongue is most often learnt by default as the child grows up in a surrounding where it is spoken by parents, siblings and also friends and relatives.

The first native dialect is the easiest because it's the one you know the problem comes with second languages and perhaps even the third, fourth and fifth languages. Being in a globalized world, learning languages other than the mother tongue could prove to be extremely beneficial and fancially rewarding. It could help build better career and those who want to be entrepreneurs on a global scale must certainly learn as many languages as possible.

However, this is easier said than done and it does take some bit of effort, time and money to learn a second language for whom English is the mother tongue. Whenever one thinks about learning a language, the first question which comes to his or her mind is how long does it take to learn a language. We will over the next few lines try and answer the question as clearly as possible. The fact of the matter is that there cannot be an all encompassing and straight jacketed answer for the same.

Five Factors Which Could Determine The Amount Of Time It Takes To Learn A Second Language:

1. Age: Though some might not agree with this, age does play a role when it comes to learning a language. In fact it is much easier for a young child to learn a second, third or fourth language when compared to a person who is on the wrong side of thirty’s or forty’s. While not undermining the ability of adults in learning new languages, children can learn it faster because of faster grasping and retaining power.

2. The dificulty of the language that you wish to learn could also determine the amount of time taken. There are some naturally affinitive languages for English speaking persons. These languages could include French, German, Italian and a few other such languages. It has generally been found that those who have affinity towards a language are in a better position to learn it faster when compared to others.

3. The level of proficiency which you plan to attain also has a role to play in determining the time taken. If you need only elementary proficiency then it is possible to learn a language perhaps even in 45 days. On the other hand if you want bilingual or native proficiency it might take around 9 to 12 months depending on the language that you are planning to master.

4. The number of hours which one spends will also be a determining factor when it comes to learning a language within a period of time. If a person is able to spare around 2 to 3 hours daily and plans to achieve elementary proficiency, it might take around 3 to 4 months. On the other hand if he or she is able to devote around five to six hours daily, then the time taken may get reduced to 45 to 60 days.

5. The kind of tools which are used for learning a language also has a role to play. Learning language is a scientific process and there should be the right combination of oral and aural tools available. It is about hearing, memorizing characters and being comfortable with the pronunciation. The better the quality of tools available the easier it will be to learn the language within a short period of time.

Difference Between Learning And Acquiring Fluency

Before getting the right answer to the question how long does it take to learn a language you must know to differentiate between learning and acquiring high levels of proficiency. Learning the basics of a language and being able to speak and read a few words and sentences should not take more than three months. On the other hand acquiring proficiency does take some time. Hence you must as a student decide what your objective and goals are. This would determine the time take for learning and mastering a language over a period of time.


At the end of the day, there is hardly any doubt that learning a language will take its own time and there is a gestation period which has to be gone through. Shortening the time take to learn the basics of a language, beyond a point, may prove to be counterproductive.
Tags: language time, learn new language, learn second language
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