How Long Does It Take to Learn a New Language?

How many hours does it take to learn a new language if you are a native English speaker, how long before you achieve fluency in a foreign language?

How Long Does It Take to Learn a New Language?

English is the most international language on the globe. If you are a native English speaker chances are, you can get along quite comfortably in most western countries without learning a word in another language. In Europe especially, with enough luck, someone out there may know enough English to initiate and sustain basic communication situations.

But of course, for various other reason either personal, cultural or work-related, you will find yourself in need of learning a foreign language. The next natural question after deciding to learn a new language is: how many hours does it take to learn a foreign language and achieve fluency?

It depends a lot on how motivated you are and how much time you have at your disposal for such an endeavor. Depending on these two factors the time spent learning a new language vary greatly.

Interagency Language Roundtable scale or the IRL scale

It is grading scale used by the US government to scale employees and diplomats working for the FSI (Foreign Service Institute).
You’ll find this scale to be the most accurate when it comes to native English speakers learning a foreign language.

Level 0 No proficiency
Level 1 Elementary proficiency
Level 2 Limited working proficiency
Level 3 Professional working proficiency
Level 4 Full professional proficiency
Level 5 Native or bilingual proficiency

 

Fluency is practically reached at level 3 (professional working proficiency), so basically, this level will be our main benchmark.

But first, we need to clarify a certain aspect of learning foreign languages as a native English speaker: some languages are more difficult to learn than others.

Why? Because English and some languages haven’t been in contact with one another for thousands of years and evolved in a totally different way.

Easiest language to learn for English speakers

The data presented below reflects a study held by FSI (Foreign Service Institute) of the US government. Again, this is probably the most accurate data regarding how much time takes for a native English speaker to become fluent in a particular new language.

The FSI has over 800 language learning courses in more than 70 languages with more than 70 years of experience in training US diplomats and foreign affairs employees.

Tier 1: Let’s start with the languages that are most closely related to English

Germanic languages

Afrikaans about 575 hours or 23 weeks
Danish about 575 hours or 23 weeks
Dutch about 575 hours or 23 weeks
Norwegian about 575 hours or 23 weeks
Swedish about 575 hours or 23 weeks

 

Romance Languages

French about 600 hours or 24 weeks
Italian about 600 hours or 24 weeks
Portuguese about 600 hours or 24 weeks
Romanian about 600 hours or 24 weeks
Spanish about 600 hours or 24 weeks

 

Even though FSI classifies all the above languages as having the same difficulty score and the same average time of learning (575-600 hours) it only makes sense that Germanic based languages like Danish or Dutch to be generally easier to learn compared with any of the Romance languages like Italian or Romanian.

But most of the languages above are highly easy to learn for very good reasons:

  • use the same alphabet as English
  • comparable stress and intonation patterns
  • already share a number of vocabulary words

Tier 2: Similar to English

German 750 hours or 30 weeks

 

Even though German is the most Germanic language of them all, it doesn’t come very natural to learn for native English speakers.

The grammar is more complicated and difficult to understand, hence German gets a tier 2 difficulty score, but of course, there are other Germanic languages out there that are much harder to master, like Icelandic.

Tier 3: Languages that may have cultural and linguistic differences compared to English

Indonesian 900 hours or 36 weeks
Malaysian 900 hours or 36 weeks
Swahili 900 hours or 36 weeks

 

Tier 4: Languages that are profoundly different from English

Polish 1100 hours or 44 weeks
Croatian 1100 hours or 44 weeks
Latvian 1100 hours or 44 weeks
Greek 1100 hours or 44 weeks
Turkish 1100 hours or 44 weeks
Icelandic 1100 hours or 44 weeks
Finnish 1100 hours or 44 weeks
Estonian 1100 hours or 44 weeks
Hungarian 1100 hours or 44 weeks

 

Above are just a part of the European languages classified as tier 4 FSI. The list goes on with other languages from all over the world, like Mongolian, Nepali, Thai, Xhosa, Zulu or Hebrew. All of them taking about 1100 hours or 44 weeks to become fluent in.

Hardest language to learn for English speakers

All of the tier 5 languages are highly sophisticated and complex compared to English having an average learning curve up to 4 times the period it takes for the average English speaker to learn Dutch for example. So arm yourself with a lot of patience and plenty of determination.

Based on all the data and testimonies English speakers made over the years, the hardest language to learn award may go to Japanese due to thousands of characters you need to memorize while having three different writing varieties.

Tier 5: Extraordinary level of difficulty

Arabic 2200 hours or 88 weeks
Chinese 2200 hours or 88 weeks
Japanese 2200 hours or 88 weeks
Korean 2200 hours or 88 weeks

 

But don’t let all these statistics scare you! People around the world are learning and assimilating new languages every day. Besides, these are still human languages; it’s not like you need to decipher an alien dialect. All of the above are languages made up by humans, and with enough determination and willpower, you can learn any language on this list.

Mondly 1000 daily lessons for free

The above FSI statistics don’t include the help of modern language learning aids like apps on your smartphone can bring to the table. In theory, today you can learn a foreign language much faster.


Mondly is one of the most popular language learning apps out there, offering courses in 33 languages, including all languages from tier 5 category. With Mondly you can greatly reduce the total amount of time it takes to learn a new language by practicing daily whenever you feel like it because everything is right there, in your smartphone, at all times.

116 comments on “How Long Does It Take to Learn a New Language?

  1. Very good article Cristian, thank you!
    I’m starting to learn Dutch and I hope it won’t take so long.
    Thiago

    1. We need to know how your Dutch is coming along. Please don’t leave Cass and I hanging.

    2. Please Thiago I am losing my mind, inform us ASAP how you are doing with the Dutch.

    3. Cass, Billy, and I are all waiting to hear how your Dutch is coming along. Do not leave us in suspense Thiago

    4. You guys are too funny 😂 I love it. But on a serious note: THIAGO I’M BECOMING INCREASINGLY IMPATIENT WITH YOU. I HOPE ALL IS WELL WITH THE DUTCH LEARNING THOUGH

    5. Hi, fellas! I know Thiago. He told me that until the 22nd week, he barely could speak or understand anything in dutch, but he held on and then, in the week after, something clicked in his head and he was finally able to watch the news and talk about quantum mechanics and international politics with people.

    6. Look Thiago this isn’t funny anymore. I’m starting to get worried that maybe your Dutch isn’t getting along as well you hoped? Please contact us as, make a youtube video, a tiktok, anything. Just please i really need to know how your dutch is coming along.

    7. Thiago, vertel ons alsjeblieft je vorderingen in het nederlands, je kunt dit misschien niet lezen omdat ik google translate heb gebruikt, maar ik kan het hopen.

    8. Thiago, how could you? You have to give us good news of your experience with the Dutch language. I await and long for your reply.
      Don’t fail us, Thiago!

    9. Thiago, please, put us out of our misery and tell us how your Dutch language learning is going? We’re in complete agony not knowing:’(

    10. thiago PLEASE i am beginning to lose hope that there is any possibility i, or anyone for that matter, will be able to learn dutch given that you have not yet updated us on your endeavor

    11. I kinda wanted to go on living but without knowing how far along is Thiago’s progress with learning Dutch I don’t see the point anymore

    12. Hi Thiago, I’m really invested in your story and waiting here in pain and agony for an update…We simply need to know how well your Dutch is now. Please don’t leave us hanging, we truly need an answer…

    13. thiago we are going to have to send out a search party if you don’t tell us how the dutch is going i mean are you fluent now or has the language consumed you

    14. Thiago, I swear, bro, I miss you, please; I need to know how your dutch studying is going.

    15. Thiago, please respond to Cass, we are all desperate to know how you’re getting along?….

    16. Thiago, why have you done this to us? It’s driving me up the wall for three years. I should know how you’re doing with Dutch. Cass, Billy, Sean, Paul, Geronimo, Max, James, Al, Dan, Mackenzie, Navya, Missy Muffet, Alice, Ai, Gesta, Rosalie, RJ, Freyja, Ethan, Tyson, Becky, and I are much worried about your progress with Dutch. Give us a bloody update.

    17. Thiago, it has been 3.5 years and we are all hoping for an update on your Dutch. A short YouTube video of you speaking fluently will suffice. Thanks.

    18. Thiago I am this close to CRYING right now, I cannot bear this anymore. if you don’t give us an update soon, I will literally mount an expedition and me and the others will come find you, wherever you are. Whoever is keeping you captive, we’ll fight earnestly and we won’t let them disturb you in your learning!!

    19. Thiago, you OK? I’m getting worried, please get back to us ASAP

    20. Thiago my man, I’m also thinking of embarking on the Dutch adventure so I desperately need your update for good reference

    21. yo thiago where da hell r u, if u can see this text just blink twice. i know that you are reading this i know you are somewhere in the earth and hell! i know that you cant even speak dutch that doesn’t supposed to be like that Thiago we could live together we could start a family we could start everything we wanted Thiago just please blink twice im desperate rn please please please
      Your Pretty Good Friend Wellington
      lol tf

    22. Thiago we really do need to know how are you doing with your dutch, i cant sleep nor eat and my children are crying

    23. I’ve started lighting an orange candle every night in the hope you tell us how your Dutch is coming along…. Thinking of Thiago

    24. thiago you’re absolutely pushing your luck by leaving us hanging like this, it’s been 4 years and i haven’t slept a wink

    25. Wow, Thiago. 4 years later and you still won’t tell us how your progress is coming along! How could you leave us hanging for so long??!! I thought you were different.

    1. Wait! Are you saying Thiago is no longer in this world with us?

      I will hold a vigil in his honour.

      #neverforgrtthiago

    2. Cica I was searching for the details on the vigil. I spent 540 to 920 hours looking then I realized I had a typo in the hashtag I hope I haven’t missed it. #neverforgrtthiago

  2. Cass, Billy, Sean, Paul, and I are all waiting to hear how your dutch is going. I implore you, Thiago, tell us.

  3. Thiago, it is imperative that you immediately inform Cass, Billy, Sean, Paul, Geronimo, Max, Rowan, Ashutosh, Bob, and me of your progress on learning Dutch and if you are fluent now, for we are all waiting on the edge of our seats for your reply.

  4. Thiago, don’t be an arse, how did your dutch go? We’re eager to know. We’re willing to go another 3 years, Thiago.

  5. 😂 hahaha I think Thiago in Netherlands and he married a Dutch girl there.

    The only reason he may not reply to the comments and curiosity of Cass, Billy, Sean, Paul, Geronimo, Max, Rowan, Ashutosh, Bob, James and me there is high possibility that during his Dutch learning he lost his ability to speak English so now if we would like to have reply from him the only possible was would be that we enroll for Dutch for 24 weeks to attain fluency and then we can come here and write comment in a language he understand (i.e Dutch)

    All the best to all of us the other who will join us in the future. :p

    1. Thiago please, we’re growing desperate. Send us a sign of how the Dutch is progressing.

  6. For F**k sake Thiago, my whole career is revolving and is hanging around your answer. Please reply sir!!

  7. Thiago – seriously dude. You’ve got to tell us how it’s going. Cass, Billy, Sean, Paul, Geronimo, Max, James, Al, Dan, Rowan, Ashutosh, Sarcastic Bob, Bryan, James, Jose, Calvin and I are all going to hunt you down if you do not inform us of how your Dutch language learning is going. Don’t make us find you.

  8. Dearest Thiago…
    Do you get pleasure from our desperate pain? How dare you torture Cass, Billy, Sean, Paul, Geronimo, Max, James, Al, Dan, Rowan, Ashutosh, Sarcastic Bob, Bryan, James, Jose, Calvin, Brennan, and I as we thirst in the dessert of mondly for your response. We are starting to become very impatient this year. We must know of your progress at once.

  9. Thiago, I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in 2 years. You simply must give us the load down

  10. Thiago,

    I am looking to follow in your footsteps and learn Dutch. I need your wisdom in these trying times so I can learn under the one and only Thiago.

    1. Dear Thiago,
      HOW HAS YOUR DUTCH BEEN PROGRESSING?
      Give us a ray of hope…

  11. Thiago, my friend. I am afraid we are growing desperate here. If you are unable to provide an update on your progress with Dutch, we will have no choice but to lose faith all together. Please, for all language learners alike – enlighten us.

  12. Cass, Billy, Sean, Paul, Geronimo, Max, James, Al, Dan, Rowan, Ashutosh, Sarcastic Bob, Bryan, James, Jose, Calvin, Kev, Cletus, Ayko, Dude_1, Annako, and I are extremely worried for your well-being. Is Dutch really this difficult to learn? Please do not be the barrier between me and learning Dutch, Thiago. We await your response to the following question… Is Dutch this deadlier than COVID-19?

  13. Thiago, please, I beg you, let us all know about your Dutch learning, we cannot possibly wait any longer to know how you’re doing. I come in the name of Cass, Billy, Sean, Paul, Geronimo, Max, James, Al, Dan, Mackenzie, Navya, Missy, Alice, Noob, Rowan, Cica, Goiaht, Ashutosh, Bob, Bryan, Essa, Jose, Calvin, Kris, Brennan, Kev, Cletus, Ayko, Dude_1, Annako, SDE, RazK and many others that are coming in the future. Please don’t leave us hanging Thiago.

  14. Thiago(my old name) here guys….

    After learning Dutch I had to change my name and re-learn English.

    I do not wish this path for anybody. I lost my job, got divorced and had to relocate to the Netherlands as no one understood me, not even my dog Max!

    3 years later I’m back and now I can safely say stick to English! please!!!

  15. Thiago, I had considered embarking on a new venture. And for a time I believed that to be learning Dutch.

    But now, I have become quite concerned as I’m afraid the process may have consumed you.

    I am sending out an SOS 🆘

    Please, I will not be able to move on with my life until I know how you fared with the learning of the Dutch language.

    Yours in waiting,
    ❤️

  16. Due to Thiago evidently being consumed by the Dutch language and forgetting all English, I have made the noble journey to learn a language that is almost the same yet not all consuming– Afrikaans. I will attempt to make first contact by begging and pleading with him in this language to give us a sign of his Dutch progress. Hopefully he will be able to understand…

    Thiago, ek kan nie Dutch praat nie maar ek kan Afrikaans praat wat amper dieselfde is. Omdat jy nie meer Engels kan praat nie, ek hoop jy kan my Afrikaans verstaan.

    ASSEBLIEF THIAGO, STUUR VIR ONS ‘N TEKEN, STUUR VIR ONS HOOP, HOE GAAN DIT MET DUTCH?! MENSE MOET WEET OM WEER GELUKKIG TE WORD!
    ASSEBLIEF!

    1. How well are you getting along Luke? I’m starting to learn Dutch too

    2. Hey Luke, how’s the Dutch coming along?

      Have you been able to learn enough yet to assist in the search for Thiago? Please don’t give up!

  17. Thiago, if you don’t respond to this thread, I will have no choice but to contact Interpol. I think you need a welfare check. We are all very concerned. I also need to know how you’re getting on with your Dutch.

  18. How did this article suddenly turn to be about finding Thiago. Oml! You’re all killing me! Anyways July 22nd , any sign of that Thiago?

  19. Thiago I have been unable to sleep for weeks as I have been refreshing this page to see how your Dutch is going, my wife is considering divorce thanks a lot.

  20. Thiago, it’s been 3 years.. I need to know. Have you learned Dutch yet? Cause in the article it just said it would only take 23 weeks.
    Your brother, Chiago
    p.s. please come home to Chicago your family misses you very dearly, you’ve been in the Netherlands far too long.

  21. Thiago, we need to know how the Dutch is going. I thought it was only supposed to take 23 weeks. Is it really this tough? Should I learn Greek instead, as I am starting to? Please. WE need to know how you are doing, SO FOR THE LOVE OF GOD WHERE THE HECK ARE YOU?!

    P.S. We miss you here in Chicago. You’ve been away for way too long so COME BACK!- Your loving sister, Miago B.

  22. Guys, we have been looking at this all wrong. Thiago has been reading this comment section for years shaking his head. In our selfish minds all we can think of is to ask ‘how is the Dutch Thiago??’ …
    But not one person has thought to ask –

    ‘How are YOU Thiago?’ 🙂

  23. Dear Thiago…
    Minutes turn to hours…to days…to years.
    Many of days I find myself in hopeless misery as my faith for seeing the good news of your bilingual journey withers away.
    September 3, 2018. Do you remember that date? I do. That day I found myself in a peak of motivation when I saw the message. All that was need was a catalyst, a progress update from the great Thiago. But, nothing…
    Me, Cass, Billy, Sean, and many others are counting on you!

  24. Thiago, I have been working on my Dutch for 49 hours straight, I might need to sleep so, although I vow to not sleep until you reply with how your Dutch is progressing. please reply soon, fatigue is creeping in.
    Sincerely, #1 Thiago Fan.

  25. Thanks for everyone’s concern. I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to respond. I decided to move to Svalbard – a remote island in the Arctic. It’s a territory of Norway, so I learned Norwegian instead. I came to find my accent seemed off, and this is because the island actually has more Swedish speakers, so I’ve learned my fair share of it too. Don’t worry though, it’s lonely on Svalbard, so I take periodic trips to the Netherlands to get some dope and party with the sex workers there. I learned enough Dutch to talk dirty to them, but then I came to find they like me talking dirty to them in English. All I can say is I might not be fluent in any of these languages, except one – the language of love. So now I too offer my services in the Netherlands, and it has been quite rewarding.

  26. I’ve just spend the best part of the morning trying to Google and social media search for the elusive Thiago.

    No luck!

    Where is he? Can he speak Dutch?

    For the love of the sweet baby Jesus, please give us an early Christmas present Thiago and let us know if you can speak it yet!!

  27. Thiago may have grasped the cold clutches of Valhalla yet, learning Dutch he switched to Icelandic and learned the ways of the Vikings, and then died gloriously in battle….. poor Thiago why?!?!?

  28. I realize I am simply a mere mortal, but I hope you will permit me the chance to speak about the endless agony and torture that you have brought upon us all.
    My son, when had we watched Spider Man together, I thought you had understood that with great power, comes great responsibility. But you reject this responsibility, yet continue to grow in immense power.
    I was not planning to say your name in vain, but I think it is necessary. Oh my Thiago, oh my Thiago.
    This power has consumed your soul and calloused your once beautiful heart. I constantly think back to the days when we were lovers and realize you have truly broken my heart to the point of no return.
    Now I see another idol has displaced me. Not that of gold, but rather that of Dutch.
    You have become so fluent in Dutch you have mastered the ability to decipher the brainwaves of any Dutch civilian, where you have access to the deepest and darkest places of the Dutch mind.
    Now you use this to exploit and manipulate countless victims, in which many are not aware that you have penetrated their secrets.
    This is why I am here today. Not for you Lord Thiago, rather for the good of the public. The public needs to be warned of you Thiago, and perhaps they need to understand what you are going to do in the near future.
    I realize you may deeply be upset by this message and decide to execute me for it, but know this Thiago: Power can strengthen you in infinitely many ways but it can only weaken your heart.
    It’s hard to understand the extent of how much you enjoy watching people around you suffer as you torment them. You purposely do not respond to our many inquiries.
    Now I will try to wipe you from your mind, but like many other victims, all day and night I can only think of you Lord Thiago. You have control of my brain and you have control of my deepest and darkest thoughts. When did you figure out I was Dutch?

  29. Dearest Thiago, why must you torture those who care the most? If only we had known on that fateful date in September 2018, we never would’ve let you embark on this Dutch voyage. We implore you, stop this cruel game and give us an update on your progress!

  30. Thiago, you find this funny? We all suffer at your loss, yet you watch us with humour in your eyes.
    We lost our sleep, we have no purpose to live, yet we can’t die before we know how learning dutch went. We can learn no more languages, eat no more without you in our thoughts, yet you look down on us and laugh?
    Please, have mercy, respond.
    We will find you if you are in deep sh*t somewhere, we just need a sign

  31. Thiago and Luke please tell us about your progress. We, the people want to know so baaaaaaaad 😂😬☠️💌💩💯💅

  32. Thiago, you have inspired me to learn Dutch myself. Starting today, my journey with the Dutch language has begun.

  33. Thiago obviously became so well versed in Dutch that he is now unable to read these English language comments. Why doesn’t learning Dutch come with a Thiago warning?

  34. Obligatory Thiago comment to keep this rolling along #ThiagoForever #ThiagoDoYouSpeakDutchYet

  35. The pattern is repeating itself. First my dad, then all my matches on Tinder, then Thiago???? Why everyone is ghosting me??? I am gonna do something stupid. Please reply Thiago…

  36. Mother told me to never trust an Iago but alas I thought Thiago would be different. Long have I waited for an update on his progress night after night staring up into the sky thinking wherever he is, is he looking up at the same moon longing in Dutch too? But alas, I will never now for many moons I have heard no reply. My heart grows weak, my will wavers, will we never hear from you again? My father tells me to forget everyday but I will stay strong! I must know if you speak Dutch, it keeps me up at night, haunts me in my sleep and I know that one day you will return, sweep me into your arms and and say “Ik heb geleerd! Ik heb geleerd!!” and I will not know what you have said but will be proud of what you have done and we will be together forever til the our hair grows silver; me, you and your Dutch fluency.
    Patiently waiting,
    Emilia

    1. Thiago, we’re truly worried, we need a sign that you are okay! It’s been 4 years Thiago!
      We’re starting to think you’re dead at this point, we hate to think that, 4 years ago we were excited about you learning Dutch, but now, we know it was a curse that consumed you never letting you come back to us. Thiago give us a sign of you being in there!

  37. Me and Pali are missing Thiago so much. How are you and how is your Dutch, Thiago? Please, let us know! We will pray for you tonight 🙂

  38. Dear Thiago, I wrote you but you still aren’t calling.
    I left my cell, my pager, and my home phone at the bottom.
    I sent two letters back in autumn, you must not have gotten them.
    There probably was a problem at the post office or something.

  39. I just stumbled across this looking for a place to learn Norwegian. I have to say I laughed so hard at all of the notations for Thiago! It is so nice to see that there are so many people out there with such a great sense of humor! Also wanted to share that I have heard that Thiago went out on a boat for a three hour tour, and is believed to be ship wrecked on an island with a Skipper, a billionaire and his wife, Ginger the Professor and Maryann,

  40. Thiago without knowing how much it is taking for you to learn dutch I cannot being myself to start such a journey please respond to us I’m spanish ayuda porfavor THIAGO RESPONDE

  41. Maybe just maybe we are looking at this the wrong way. Could it be that Thiago was not a man this whole time but a metaphor? Or maybe a message from a higher bilingual being.

    We have conducted through analysis at our lab here and believe we have uncovered the true meaning of Thiago’s message. As everyone knows thiago is pronounced phonetically as T-ya-go. Running this though our deep learning system we believe we have uncovered the true meaning of his name;
    – T -> clearly a reference to the delicious beverage served hot or cold.
    – Ya -> 21st century word for yes.
    – Go -> well self explanatory go is go.

    Now if we examine the body of his message he gives thanks to some sort of Christian and then delights in the possibility of learning Dutch.

    Putting the two together it’s clear that this comment was designed to subliminally make us drink tea, learn Dutch and submit ourselves to Christ?

    Could this be an eloborate Jehovah’s witness hoax!?

    #thiago-spiracy

  42. Thiago, you are the reason I have trust issues. I left my career and family to be with you under your solemn vow to teach me Dutch. I’m here at the airport and you’ve not so much as even answered your tele much less replied on this thread. It is OVER. We are over. But also, please reply bae. xoxo

  43. Thiago…. its just shy of 4 years since we’ve last heard from ye… i think everybody has accepted the fact that you’re gone now… some are starting to say you never really existed at all and that you were simply an npc, or- or a bot of some kind, designed solely to praise the mondly service. but I have faith Thiago….. my tears were not for not, my lonely nights spent reading dutch nursery rhymes by candlelight were not in vain. i have just purchased a plane ticket to Amsterdam and will begin my search for you…. please….. wherever you are Thiago…… be safe…… im coming.

  44. Dear Thiago, in my quest to find my long lost uncle, whom I miss dearly.. I found this thread instead. It has given me new purpose, and restored my faith in humanity. But.. as a fellow Thiago’ist I have to ask…
    WHERE ARE YOU!?

    1. For those how doubt the existence of Thiago, I wanna tell you that Thiago is as real as the bright and shining moon i am seeing right now in the sky.

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