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How long will it take to teach yourself a foreign language?

Languages are a lifetime pursuit, and beginners often underestimate the amount of time it takes to learn a language. The first thing to note is there is no perfect level, even for your native language. There are only milestones that you set according to your goals. You first need to have a level in mind you want to reach. How long it takes then depends mainly on two key factors:

1. Approximately how many hours are required to reach your desired level

2. How much time you can spend during the day

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A good idea of how many hours it takes to reach a reasonably competent level comes from the FSI Language Difficulty Ranking. For an easier language like Spanish or French, most people take around 1-2 years, but there is high variation caused by the second factor. If you studied 10 hours solidly per day, every day, you could potentially reach the same level in just over two months.

While time is the overwhelmingly important factor, it takes more than just time to learn a language. There are less and more efficient ways of learning. Here are the other factors that will determine your rate of learning:

• How much of your study involves using the language? 

Almost all learning is best done with the language, meaning using real texts and audio and integrating speaking and writing into your study routine.

• Are you working towards your goal? 

If you want to learn the language for a specific purpose, you can reach that goal faster by prioritizing the skills necessary to accomplish it.

• How well do you know what techniques are effective and what techniques work for you?
Just following our weekly tips and the few core principles will get you 95% of the way. The rest comes with experience.

• How much of your time with the language is spent actively paying attention? 

This means not just passively watching or listening, but actively focusing and trying to improve your ability or understanding. The more, the better.

• Do you have a growth mindset? 

Your beliefs about your own ability place limits on what you can achieve. Believing that you lack certain talents or will never reach a certain level will make it so. Everyone can teach themselves a language.

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