How Long Does It Take To Learn a Language?
Learning a language takes time. But it doesn’t have to be a drawn-out process. The right motivation can help you get started, but the longer it takes, the more your enthusiasm fades. Without visible success, many learners ask themselves how long does it take to learn a language? The answer is, it depends on how much you’re enjoying it.
First, there is no magic solution that will make you are fluent within 24 or 48 hours. In fact, you won’t be fluent after only a few months. However, there are certain things you can do to speed up how quickly you are learning a language.
This article gives you eight different things you can do to start increasing your learning rate so that you can start to see results.
Language Learning Goals: The Frame for Your Success
As with anything you learn, you need to have clearly defined goals. When you start to learn a language, the sole goal of being fluent is not enough to keep you going. You need smaller, more easily defined goals to see you through the entire process.
You will be able to see how well you are working toward your goals, giving you a reason to keep coming back to learn more. With a narrower focus, you will find it much easier to focus on the things you need to do.
Each of your language learning goals should follow these guidelines:
- They need to be tangible, measurable, and specific. You have to be able to see when you have reached a particular goal, so it cannot be vague or generic.
- You already have a long term goal – what you need is a steady series of short-term goals. If a goal seems too big, break it down until you can see the end to each goal.
- Goals need to challenge without feeling impossible. If you can achieve something easily, it doesn’t feel like you have accomplished much. If a goal is too difficult, you probably are not going to want to keep going until you’ve reached it. It’s a difficult balance, but finding it will help you learn much quicker because of a sense of accomplishment.
- Record and track your goals. This is where most people fail. Whether you use an app to do this or pen and paper, you need to know what your goals are and when you have accomplished them. Remember, you are going to have to maintain the goals you have reached as well, so the list is useful well beyond actually meeting the goal.
Focus on Learning Words with a Purpose
Too often people learn words that really don’t help in a conversation. For example, if you are a lawyer, you really don’t need the vocabulary for a classroom.
Every language has a wealth of words. The key is finding the right ones and learning them. For example, there are roughly 100 words in the English language that comprise approximately 50 percent of written text. And just 1,000 words that are more than 90 percent of written text. Find out what the top 1,000 words in your target language are and you will be well on your way to knowing the words you need to become fluent.
Be Smart in Your Language Learning Study Habits
The way you study plays a critical role in how successful you will be in learning the language. Know what learning style works best for you, then use it to your full advantage. Flashcards are great, but many people learn vocabulary in a way that is better suited for their particular learning style.
If you do decide to use flashcards, try these tips to make the most of them.
- Electronic flashcards are both easier to use and easier to switch out. There are many apps you can load on your mobile device and get more out of each study lesson. Even better, many of them automatically apply spaced repetition. So, all you have to do is open the app regularly to get the optimal retention for the words you learn.
- Even if you aren’t sure of the word, guess before finding out if you are right. This gives you an active approach that will make it easier to remember what you should have said, as well as an occasional surprise when you are right.
- Get the translation down before getting the English equivalent. By reinforcing the sound, you are helping to remember the word. It will be easier to learn the English equivalent when you know the word in the language than focusing on the English element first. In other words, you should be able to translate into English before you translate from English into your new language.
Make sure to say the words when you learn them in your new language. You can even use English around the word until your vocabulary is big enough to make complete sentences. For example, you can say “I’m going to walk den Hund,” to help you use the German word for dog.
Find New Ways to Use the Language Every Day
Of course, this will be very difficult early on, but over time, it will become increasingly easier to pull off. Start reading the news in your new language. Find people who speak the language and talk with them on your breaks. You can even start passively teaching people at work or school (stop if they say it is annoying, but a lot of people love learning trivial things).
You can start listening to the language even when you first get started. You may not understand everything that is happening, but hearing a few words here and there will make you smile and give you a bit of context. Listening will also get you accustomed to the language’s cadence.
Find Ways to Practice Speaking in Real Situations
There is nothing like reality to teach you what you need to know. Traveling abroad is the best way to do this, but it is rarely an option. In lieu of going abroad, here are a few things that can help you get real-life use of your language.
- Weekly or biweekly meetups with a language partner. You will help your partner learn English while the partner helps you learn your target language. Make sure to divide the time evenly.
- Join a club that uses your language of choice.
- Find an online tutor.
- Work with immigrants in and around your area who speak the language.
- Frequent businesses where your target language is spoken.
Take Time to Learn about the Culture
This tip may seem irrelevant, but the culture that a language derives from plays a very important role in how that language developed. English is one of a very few languages where there isn’t a different set of conjugations for formal conversation. Instead, English relies on word choice to get respect and deference across during conversation. The culture of the early English speakers and the way the language has evolved are very much a reason for how complex the language has become.
This is true of every language. Take the time to learn about the culture to better understand the way the language works.
Monitor Your Progress to See How Much Longer It Will Be
No matter how much you hate tests, it is nearly impossible to deny that they are effective in increasing your study time. There are numerous courses and apps online that can give you the tests to help you see not only how much you have learned but where you still need to work. By measuring your progress, you’ll be able to adjust your goals.
Make Learning a Language Fun
Lack of motivation is one of the primary reasons people stop learning a language. You need to be enjoying your learning to keep going. Play games, learn vocabulary for your hobbies or make friends with native speakers. There are so many ways for you to turn your language learning into an enjoyable experience. The more fun you have, the less you’ll think about how long it takes to learn a language.