The most common question we receive from students is "how long will it take for me to reach level X in language Y?"

A multitude of factors come into play: your prior experience with the language, the amount of time you have to practice/study/take lessons, your experience with other foreign languages, and even things like your age. So unfortunately if we gave a specific answer to this question, we would be lying 🤥 (this blog post would be fairly useless though if we didn't have some interesting information to share though, so keep reading!) Every person, situation, and language, is different.

Therefore we can't give you a specific answer...and if anyone does make promises relating to how quickly you will learn a language with them, they're being disingenuous.

General guidelines - hours of study required to learn a language

With that caveat out of the way, we won't leave you empty-handed! The Foreign Service Institute (FSI) of the U.S. Department of State has created general guidelines for the average amount of time it has taken their trainees to reach a "Professional Working Proficiency" level in various languages. These guidelines, given our experience helping many thousands of students learn languages, seem to match well with our students who get to work directly with a professional, native-speaking teacher.

The FSI has identified 4 categories of languages in terms of difficulty. Let's take a look at each, and how many total hours of practice it takes to reach a "Professional Working Proficiency" in them. Remember: studying and practicing on your own counts in these hour totals, you don't necessarily need to spend all of your hours learning directly with a teacher (although one-on-one lessons with a professional teacher are the best way to improve!)

Least Difficult - 600 Hours of Practice

Spanish
French
Italian
Portuguese

Medium Difficulty - 900 Hours of Practice

German

Medium/Hard Difficulty - 1100 Hours of Practice

Russian

Most Difficult - 2200 Hours of Practice

Mandarin
Arabic
Japanese

We've only listed languages that we currently offer; see the full list of languages the FSI has ranked here: https://www.state.gov/m/fsi/sls/c78549.htm

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