How long does it take to learn English?

Being teachers at an English-language school in London, this is a question that we often hear from our students. Students have specific questions about grammar, vocabulary, idioms, and everyday expressions too, but most want to know how much time and effort they’ll have to put into studying to become fluent. Can I speak English like a native speaker in three months? Six? The answer to this question is a bit more complicated than it might seem at first. So, how long does it take to learn English? Read on and find out.

What is your native language?

Believe it or not, your native language will have an impact on how quickly you learn English. If your native language, or a second language that you learned at an early age, is of Western European origin, then you’ll find it easier to learn English. This is especially true if your first language is Germanic in origin. So speakers of German, Dutch, and the Scandinavian languages will have an easier time learning English than speakers of Portuguese, Spanish, French, and Italian. The further your language is from English, the more work you’ll have to do to learn it perfectly. So, for example, if your native tongue is from a completely different language family (not Indo-European), the structure and vocabulary of English will be completely new to you. Some examples of this are Arabic, Turkish, and Chinese – if one of these is your native language, it will greatly affect how long it takes for you to learn English.

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Different skills, different times

Another factor to consider is that learning a language requires several skills – reading, writing, listening, and speaking, in addition to the academic knowledge of grammar and vocabulary. Not all skills will improve simultaneously and equally for all students. For some people, learning English from a book will be simple for them, but their ability to understand what people are saying and their ability to verbally communicate will be much slower to improve. On the other hand, other learners can speak confidently and fluently (even with mistakes), but might not know a lot about grammar and structure. Everyone learns differently.

So, how long does it take to learn English?

Taking all of the above into consideration, the British Council (the governing body that regulates and accredits schools like Ingla) suggest that, on average, it takes about 200 hours of guided learning to go from one EFL level to the next. That means 200 hours (more or less) to go from Beginner to A1, another 200 hours to go from A1 to A2, and so on. Obviously, for different people the length of time will be different, but this is the average. Finally, “guided hours” means time spent in the classroom with a teacher helping you. How much you study in your own time will affect how many guided hours you’ll need to improve.

 

This is just a general guideline, but take heart, normally it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master a skill. With English, though, you can become a master with just 1,000 hours of intense study. Good luck, students! It won’t be easy, but you can do it!

This is Ingla School of English‘s weekly blog, intended as reading practise for our students in Turnpike Lane, in London, and around the globe. We hope you’ve enjoyed it and take a look at the rest of our writing, much of which has activities for teachers to use in the classroom.

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