How long does it take to learn a language?

The phrase ‘learning a new language’ is quite ambiguous. As with any form of education, there are levels of proficiencies to which you can learn, and languages are no different. You may want basic, conversational skills or to understand the nuances of complex phrases for a specific topic. Learning a language is therefore much more about your motivation and ambition for the new skills, as opposed to it being a simple end-to-end process.

Most of us will have studied a language such as French, German or Spanish in our younger days at school. However, later in life many of us realize that all we acquired from those hour-long, weekly lessons were basic greetings and how to give your all-important details, such as your dog’s name and your favorite out-of-school hobby.

There is a massive difference between ‘learning’ a language at school and gaining a deeper understanding of a language with greater fluency. Although challenging, having a greater degree of fluency in another language can be very beneficial for your career and personal life, opening doors to translation work, overseas opportunities and exploring different markets.

Why learn a new language?

With advances in technology, the world has become a much smaller place through digital connectivity. Due to this, many would argue that learning another language is becoming essential, and if not, at least extremely beneficial.

Acquiring another language opens up a range of new possibilities that you may have not even been aware of before and is also a skill that inspires self-confidence, improves your memory and encourages creativity. This can support you in applying for roles with international companies or simply with working in a multilingual environment. With over 6,000 languages in the world, why stop at only 1 or 2?

Learning a new language also allows you to see the world from a different viewpoint. Rather than remaining in a limited state with your first language, learning another one enables you to become more understanding and appreciative of other cultures, conventions and customs. Travelling to another country would no longer seem like a daunting task. No longer would you be limited to simply ordering your lunch or asking for directions in a basic and elementary way, you could be capable of actually engaging in deeper and more meaningful conversations with locals.

Robert Mynett, General Manager of International School of Linguists (ISL) talks about the benefits of learning a new language. He comments: ‘Many people assume that because English is the ‘official’ language of the Internet there is less requirement to speak a second language but that is simply not true. In fact, the opposite is the case. With the Internet making trading globally even easier, multinational companies realize that customers are far more likely to buy a product or service if it is offered in their native language. This means there is an increasing demand for employees who speak more than one language. Furthermore, less than 25% of native English people speak another language, so if you do speak two or more languages you can really stand out in an increasingly competitive job market.’


Which is the hardest language to learn?

The difficulty in learning a new language entirely depends on what language it is, how dedicated you are, and how much time you have to spend studying and practicing to perfection.

Research has found that it takes 480 hours to reach basic fluency in languages such as French, Spanish, German and Italian. These languages are considered to be easier to learn in comparison to those such as Greek, Urdu, Thai, Russian, Arabic and Chinese, which on average would take 720 hours to learn. Factors such as different alphabets, vocabulary and phrase structures all impact the difficulty of a particular language. Although in some cases, choosing a language similar to your first language may make certain languages easier than others to learn.

If you dedicated 5 hours a day to learn a simpler language, it would take roughly 96 days to get to grips with the basics. With that in mind, the idea does not seem so daunting and time-consuming, and the long-term benefits do outweigh the time. So why not start your new language adventure today?

If you already speak multiple languages or are considering getting into translating and interpreting, check out our linguist zone for linguist opportunities.

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