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There are many guesses and people suggesting you can learn a language in a night, a week or similar short periods of time. Let’s be realistic for a bit. Let’s look at some data and see what it can tell us for if people in general need a certain time to learn the language, let’s not assume that it can be done way faster with some magical woodoo-learning methods. I was checking out the ILA France language lists page and found the following estimates for learning French to levels of the European Common Languages Framework which I have already described. Here’s the time needed to achieve each level from the start in French according to them:
A1 – 60 hours
A2 – 160 hours
B1 – 310 hours
B2 – 490 hours
C1 – 690 hours
C2 – 890 hours
That is, about 900 hours and you are pretty much fluent in French by their standards. How much is that? That is 37 full 24 hour days. It is more reasonable to think that a person would study a language for three hours a day so it would take him around eight times that which is almost 10 months. If you double it to six hours a day, you can do it in 5 months. From my experience, it is very hard to practice the language more than that (and even that) in any given day, so if these estimates are any good, it is achievable and maybe realistic, granted you are living in a French-speaking country, to become fluent in half a year or so. If you are only aiming for B2 (B2 is pretty communicative) and you’re good, you can achieve it in 3 months.
By comparison, it takes you only 60 hours to get the very basics of it (A1) which you could do in about two weeks of practicing assuming you do it with a similar intensity. Not bad, 60 hours, is it? You could learn the basics of 15 languages at the same time it takes you to learn one to fluency! That explains it how there are people who can seemingly communicate in many languages. I, in fact, would choose to do so over the “fluent in one” thing unless I really needed that one.
I checked this for my 6 months Greek challenge and I am aiming at B2 (thus my standards for fluency are way lower than than have assumed in this article). I’d need about 490 hours if Greek could be equated to French and this makes it 490 / 6*30 or about 2.75 hours a day. I’m doing way less during my first few months so it will probably be more like 4 to 5 hours when I am in Greece. I believe that this number is achievable and reasonable in terms of my challenge, although challenging, which is what I am aiming for in the first place. I also know some tips and tricks from my previous experience so maybe that will reduce my workload.
Deutsche Welle (sponsored by the German government) suggests A-1 is reached with about 75 hours of German study. A-2.1 about 150 hours. A-2.2 about 225 hours. B 1.1 about 300 hours. B 1.2 about 400 hours.
Kind of similar numbers, at least in the beginning. Also it can be argued that German is harder than French (for example due to noun genders) – I know how tricky it is to assert something like that – so it takes more time to learn it. It still is relying on authority for they do not specify explicitly on the pages how they got the data but the fact that both of these institutions seem to have similar numbers and that they are both respectable institutions (funded by the government and doing research), I would tend to believe that they are indeed believable at least to some extent.
Thus I could say that fluency in 6 months is possible if you really try very very hard. A year is more likely and you can be more laid-back and follow your natural style, although it still is quite a challenge for studying at least 3 hours a day every day is not that easy. Fluency in shorter periods is unrealistic according to the data unless you are aiming for lower levels of fluency (like me, yet I still have six months… well, I never told you I wasn’t lazy). Listen to the data or not, that’s your choice.
P.S. To get some decent practice, try learning by reading books from InterlinearBooks.com
P.P.P.S. If you’re interested in verb conjugation, try out our Cooljugator – works in many languages, and helps you learn them.
- Fluent In 6 Months – Perfect Combination
- How Fluent in Greek Do I Want to Become in Six Months?
- Why You Can Learn Many Languages in Your Life
- What lies behind it?
- It Is Far Easier Just To Learn The Basics