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How long does it take to learn a language?

That is a question we are often asked. Sometimes people specify which language they want to learn but very seldom what they want to be able to do in the language – and that is one of the key questions we ask back.


Many factors influence how long learning German or Mandarin, for example, will take but the most important one for us is what skills learners need (listening, speaking, reading, writing) and in what situations, and with whom, they need to use the language. We can then give the learner’s goal a much clearer definition and an approximate number of hours they will need to reach that.


The official estimates we have seen from researchers into foreign language acquisition still vary greatly, though. For instance, learning a language similar to your own to a basic user level – A2 for those of you who have come across the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) – can take between 190 and 250 hours. Why this gap?


That is because of all the other factors that influence a learner’s progress. There are too many to mention in this short article but here are a few tips how to speed up the process:


  1. Immerse yourself in the culture, in a country where the language is spoken, and try it out – and insist when the locals want to practise their English with you instead!
  2. Find a school or teacher who uses an approach that works for you, preferably not so much grammar-translation (old!) and more communicative so you learn to speak and understand with ease and confidence.
  3. Beware of the ‘forgetting curve’ – it’s better to do a little every day than 2 hours once a week and then nothing until your next lesson.
  4. Study in a group if possible – positive group dynamics are motivating and fun.
  5. Get some good study resources and a teacher who can exploit those to create meaningful learning activities, and sign up to apps, even a language exchange app.
  6. Take a positive attitude to language learning, the target language and culture.
  7. Have clear learning objectives, agreed with the teacher, and visualise yourself as a speaker of the language outside the classroom – this has a real impact on your progress.
  8. Of course, learning a language closer to your own may be easier but having good learning skills, such as memory and analysis skills, makes learning any language easier for you.


This may explain why it is so difficult to predict how long it will take to learn a language, which is why we at PLS always carry out a Training Needs Analysis before we make our recommendation. If you want to know any more, contact us This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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