How Long Does It Take to Learn a Language?

Most people believe that learning a new language is difficult, but is that really the case? Have you ever wondered how long does it take to learn a language? The answer might surprise and motivate you to take on a new challenge so that you can expand your employment opportunities, connect with people from other countries, and deepen your cultural awareness.

How Long Does It Take to Learn a Language Fluently?

Malcolm Gladwell’s claims that it takes roughly 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to hone a certain skill to perfection. That’s well over a year of non-stop studying. Scary, right? Fortunately, the 10,000-hour theory was debunked multiple times.

how long does it take to learn a language

So, how long does it take to learn a foreign language? The answer to this question depends largely on the following factors: 

  • Your attitude and motivation: Everyone who has been forced to learn a new language in school understands the role personal attitude and motivation play in learning. If you look forward to each and every study session, you’re far more likely to memorize new vocabulary and understand difficult grammar points than someone who dreads studying. 
  • Your language background: Some languages are so similar that their speakers can easily understand one another. Czech and Slovak (and to a lesser extent Polish) are great examples. On the other hand, some languages are so distant (English and Chinese) that they require learners to internalize a completely different way of thinking about the world around us.   
  • Your learning style: All language learners are different. Some enjoy practicing their conversational skills in small groups, while others prefer to study alone. That’s why it’s important that the learning method you select matches your preferred learning style. Only then you’ll be able to enjoy your study sessions and remain motivated until you reach your goal.
  • Study frequency and duration: To commit vocabulary to memory and learn grammar, you need to repeatedly review everything you’ve learned over a long period of time. There are many language learning apps that promise outstanding results while requiring minimum commitment from their users. Such apps virtually always don’t deliver on their promises.
  • Your objective: When someone asks us, “How long does it take to learn a new language?” we always ask, “How well?” It can take as little as a few hours to learn a handful of conversational phrases, but achieving fluency is an entirely different ball game. 

So, assuming that you have a positive attitude and a clearly defined objective, is it possible to calculate how long it takes to learn a language? The Foreign Service Institute (FSI) believes it is. 

Interagency Language Roundtable scale (IRL)

The FSI, the United States federal government’s primary training institution for employees of the U.S. foreign affairs community, describes how long it takes native speakers of English to achieve the so-called “Professional Working Proficiency” in their Interagency Language Roundtable scale (IRL).

language learning proficiency levels

Professional Working Proficiency is defined as the ability to “speak the language with sufficient structural accuracy and vocabulary to participate effectively in most conversations on practical, social, and professional topics.” To achieve it, learners must also be able to discuss particular interests and special fields of competence with reasonable ease, have comprehension which is quite complete for a normal rate of speech, have broad enough vocabulary knowledge so they don’t need to search for words, and show good control of grammar. 

The time it takes to achieve Professional Working Proficiency depends on your target language:

Category I Languages24-30 weeks (600-750 class hours)Danish, Dutch, French, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish, Swedish
Category II LanguagesApproximately 36 weeks (900 class hours)German, Haitian, Creole, Indonesian, Malay, Swahili
Category III LanguagesApproximately 44 weeks (1,100 class hours)Czech, Finnish, Greek, Hungarian, Lithuanian, Polish, Russian, Slovak, Ukrainian, Vietnamese
Category IV Languages88 weeks (2,200 class hours)Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Korean

For obvious reasons, the table above doesn’t include all 6,500 languages that are spoken in the world today.

How Long Does It Take to Learn a Language with Encore!!! App? 

Back when the FSI was putting together its language learning timelines, learners were relying mainly on rote learning and boring textbooks. By using a modern language learning method, you can dramatically reduce the amount of time required to become fluent.  

how long does it take to learn a language through immersion

The Encore!!! app offers its own answer to the question, “How to become fluent in a language?” It allows people to learn a language in a “comprehensive approach” or in a “limited activity” approach, so they can both participate in most daily activities and learn domain-specific vocabulary, such as the most commonly used words when visiting a doctor or shopping for food. 

Because the Encore!!! app makes it possible to set up a lesson plan with just a few taps on the screen, you can spend more time studying and less time interacting with your smartphone. The hands-off nature of Encore!!! makes it possible to go through lessons while doing other activities that don’t require one’s full attention.

how to become fluent in a language with Encore app

As a result, you can easily study for as many as 8 or 10 hours a day without feeling tired. Motivated learners who practice with Encore!!! for, let’s say, 5 hours a day, can become fluent in a Category I language, such as Italian or Spanish, in just 4 months!  


In this article, we’ve answered, among other things, the question, “How long does it take to learn a language through immersion?” The short version is that modern apps like Encore!!! can reduce the amount of time required to become fluent in a language from years to months. You can download Encore!!! for free from the App Store (coming soon to Google Play) and discover what makes it so effective. 

Download Encore!!! and elevate your language learning to the next level

*The Android version is in the beta test mode - it is free for all the languages. Being in beta mode the version is still being worked on and may not work with all Android devices.