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 different levels of proficiency that you can achieve, and languages are no different. You might only want basic, conversational skills. Or perhaps you want to understand the nuances of complex phrases for a specific topic. Learning a language is therefore much more about your motivation and ambition for learning new skills, as opposed to it being a simple end-to-end process.

Many of us studied a language such as French, German or Spanish in our younger days at school. However, later in life many of us come to realize that all we learned in those daily 50-minute lessons were basic greetings and how to share a few personal details, such as your dog’s name and your favorite hobby.

There is a huge difference between ‘learning’ a language at school and gaining a deeper understanding of a language with greater fluency. Although challenging, achieving a greater degree of fluency in another language can be very beneficial for your career and personal life, opening doors to translation work, international 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. Because of this, many would argue that learning another language is becoming essential, or at least extremely beneficial.

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

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. Traveling to another country no longer seems like a daunting task. You are no longer limited to simply ordering your lunch or asking for directions in a basic and elementary way; you are 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 little need to learn a second language, but that is simply not true. In fact, the opposite is the case. With the internet making global commerce even easier, multinational companies have come to 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-speaking 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 depends entirely 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 languages 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 learning a simpler language, it would take roughly 96 days to master the basics. When you look at it that way, the idea doesn’t seem so daunting and time-consuming, and the long-term benefits outweigh the time invested. 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.


Emily Bell

Communication Executive


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