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How to learn a language
How to learn a language

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10 How long will it take?

An illustration contains the text ‘Learn a language in three weeks (or maybe not …)’.
Figure 6 Can you learn a language in three weeks?

Watch the following video, in which a group of people talk about how long they think it will take to learn a language.

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How long it takes you to learn a language depends on several factors:

  • the level of proficiency you want to get to
  • whether you are an experienced language learner or not
  • the intensity, regularity and efficacy of your study routine
  • how similar the language you are learning is to the language(s) you already speak
  • how complex your target language is.

If you are a native speaker of English, you might find it easier to learn German, as they are both Germanic languages that share a lot of vocabulary and phonological features, than to learn Mandarin, where you would have to get to grips with a different writing system and with the fact that Mandarin is a tonal language, and where there are no similarities with English in the vocabulary, grammar or syntax.

There are many estimates of how long it may take a learner to reach each of the CEFR levels, but as a guideline, it might take you a couple of hundred hours to move between each of the six levels. As I’ve already said, learning a language is a marathon, not a sprint. So… beware of snake oil!