How Long Does It Take To Learn German? An Honest Guide For Beginners

how long does it take to learn german

Source: “Castillo de Neuschwanstein” by Diego Cambiasso – Under Creative Commons license

We all have different motivations for learning a new language but with over 200 million speakers worldwide, German is a popular and extremely rewarding choice.

But just how long does it take to learn German? After all, as you set out on your German journey, you probably have certain objectives in mind and it’s important to have some idea of how long it will take you to achieve them.

Fortunately, for English native speakers German is one of the easier foreign languages to learn. Of course, how quickly you learn it depends on a few things:

  • The effort you’re willing to put in
  • How often you practice
  • Finding a suitable learning technique or method to use

Estimated Hours Of Practice

The Foreign Service Institute (FSI) has created a practical reference for individuals interested in learning a foreign language. The list contains difficulty ratings and the estimated number of classroom hours necessary to learn each language at a semi-proficient level.

German is rated as a category 2 language and considered to be similar to English. The FSI estimates that German takes approximately 30 weeks, or 750 classroom hours to learn.

This study was conducted on a group of language students who spent 25 hours per week in class, and three hours daily on individual practice.

Although that may sound like a lot, even languages closely related to English, such as Spanish and French, can take up to 24 weeks or 600 hours to learn.

The most difficult languages, such as Mandarin Chinese and Japanese can take up to 88 weeks or 2200 hours to learn. Considering these facts, German doesn’t actually take as long to learn as you might think.

Factors That Influence How Long It Takes To Learn German

There are many different factors that determine how long it takes to learn German.

Your overall motivation to learn, the amount of exposure you get to the language, and finding the right teacher or method are some of the most important contributing factors. Utilizing your German and practicing it in everyday situations will also help speed up the learning process.

These factors need to be in the foreground when putting together a language learning program. Let’s explore these aspects of language learning in more detail.

How Much Time Do You Spend Studying German?study time

One of the main factors that determines how long it takes you to learn German is the amount of time you invest in studying.

The more time you spend learning German, the faster you will gain basic proficiency. It’s really that simple.

In a perfect world, you could travel to Germany and fully immerse yourself in German culture while attending language courses.

However, in reality, most of us don’t have any more than a few hours to dedicate to our learning each week. In order to make the most of this time, you’ll need to choose appropriate learning methods.

We all learn in different ways and some methods work better than others. In order to optimize your language learning sessions, it’s important to learn efficiently.

The best way to become comfortable with a new language is through regular exposure to it. Reading German books, listening to German conversations, writing down new phrases or words, and language learning apps all provide opportunities to practice the language.

However, you’ll also need a teacher to help guide the way. This could be through a traditional language course, an online class, or a language partner program.

Finding The Right Teacher Or Tutor

It may be challenging to find the right teacher in the beginning. We all have different learning styles, as well as teaching styles and personalities.

Take the time to explore all your options and find a course of action that motivates you to learn German the most.

Depending on the opportunities available in your area, it may be possible to join a German retreat, attend a conversational Stammtisch (an informal German meetup group), or take part in an online German speaking group.

The main idea is to interact with the language as much as possible and start communicating in German.

If you find you’re making slow progress with one teacher or method, try moving on to another to see if it suits your lifestyle and learning style better.

A combination of techniques and resources is what will provide a successful strategy to learn a foreign language quickly and efficiently.

  • If you have a great teacher but don’t practice outside of class, you’re unlikely to learn very fast.
  • Similarly, if you practice regularly, but don’t have a teacher to point out your mistakes, you’re probably not going to be able to maximise your learning.

Try to use time with a tutor or a native speaker together with consistent study on your own to gain maximum exposure to the language, and you’ll optimize your chances of learning German faster.

What Makes German Difficult To Learn

There are many reasons the language learning process may not go as quickly as you would like.

Some common hurdles include:

  • Losing motivation due to complex grammar concepts
  • A lack of exposure or practice
  • Working with the wrong teacher or tutor
  • Using inefficient methods

Maintaining Your Motivationlearn german motivation

It’s important to maintain a high level of motivation throughout the language learning experience.

Make a list of the reasons you want to learn German, how it can benefit your life, and what you can do once you are proficient.

Keeping these goals in mind will help you stay motivated and on track.

Tackling German Grammar

grammar book

Source: “Just An Old Book” by Dimitar Nikolov – Under Creative Commons license

German grammar may seem complex and some concepts can be hard to grasp in the beginning. This is where a teacher can help.

It’s almost impossible to learn a language without some help from an expert. A teacher or tutor can help you grasp new grammar quickly, and correctly master pronunciation.

German grammar is more precise and intricate than in English, so you are bound to face roadblocks along the way.

Instead of spending hours on your own trying to grasp a concept, prepare a list of difficult subjects to go through with your tutor.

German grammar doesn’t have to be extremely complicated. With the right language tutor or course, even the most challenging concepts can be explained clearly and simply.

However, having the wrong teacher or method can make these concepts seem even more difficult and lead to a lack of motivation to keep learning.

If the methods or teacher you’ve chosen don’t appear to work after a few months, it may be time to consider changing your course of action.

Practice Makes Perfect

Even if you’ve found the optimal language tutor or course and are highly motivated, your language progression may be slowed down by a lack of practice.

Daily exposure to the language is essential for fast learning. Practice speaking, reading, writing, or listening on a daily basis to reaffirm what you’ve learned in classes.

Why English Speakers Have An AdvantageGermanic Languages

Although there are some aspects of the German language that make it difficult for native English speakers to learn, there are many aspects that make German easier faster to learn for native English speakers than other languages are.

  • English and German both belong to the Indo-European family of languages and are both Germanic languages. This means English and German both share commonalities in vocabulary and grammar. For example, some words sound similar, or are even the same. Baby, hotel, kindergarten, instrument, radio, tiger, video, wind, and ring are just some examples of words that are the same in both German and English. Chances are, you already know quite a few German words. This makes learning German much easier, and faster, for English speakers, compared to other languages.
  • English and German use the same alphabet. This is one of the main similarities between English and German and it makes German much easier, and faster, to learn than languages with different alphabets, such as Greek or Russian. There are a few slight differences, which include the letters ä, ë, ö, ü, and ß; but although these letters may look strange, their pronunciation is not especially difficult or unfamiliar. They are used in many German words that have been borrowed from English and vice versa. Learning these common words first can help you start speaking German faster.
  • German verbs follow regular patterns that are easy to learn. Even irregular verbs are easier for English speakers since they follow much more regular patterns than in English. Verb conjugation also follows regular rules, making it easy to master relatively quickly. Unlike English, German has fewer rule exceptions, which can speed up the learning process.
  • German words also follow set pronunciation patterns, taking the guesswork out of speaking. This makes it much easier to quickly practice speaking since most words are spoken as they are written.
  • You can begin to communicate effectively just by learning a few hundred German words.The German language also has fewer words than English, making it faster to learn. The German dictionary contains approximately 200,000 words (and the number you need to actually speak and communicate is far, far lower). The English language on the other hand, uses up to one million words. Many German words are created by combining root words with prefixes and suffixes which means that once you become familiar with these roots, prefixes and suffixes, you can effectively deduce the meaning of new words.

So, How Long Does It Take To Learn German?munich germany

Above all else, how fast you learn German depends on how much time you are willing to invest in learning the language. Learning time is most accurately calculated in minutes and hours, not months and years, so if set aside practice time on a daily basis you will learn faster.

It is estimated that a total of 30 weeks or 750 classroom hours are necessary to learn German. However, those 750 hours could be completed in a matter of months or over the course of many years. It all depends on your learning style and available time:

  • Language students who practice a method of complete immersion, with eight hours of practice per day, could learn German to a high level in a matter of months.
    • Studying 8 hours per day, 5 days per week you could complete 750 hours in less than 20 weeks
  • Those who dedicate at least one hour per day to language learning can achieve an intermediate level within two years.
    • Studying 1 hour per day, every day you could complete 750 hours in a little over 2 years.

As we’ve seen in this article, other factors also influence how long it takes to learn German.

Since German and English have many similarities, language students can use these to their advantage in order to save time.

English grammar and spelling have many exceptions to the rules. German, on the other hand, rarely has exceptions to the rules, making it much faster and straightforward to learn.

How long it takes to learn German is really up to you.

The more time you invest in daily practice, the faster you will see progress.

If you’re able to travel to Germany or submerse yourself in German culture in some other way, that can help you to learn faster too.

But in the end, whether you study abroad or learn from home it’s up to you to put in the hours and spend time with the language.

So, what are waiting for… ? It’s time to get started! Viel Glück!

What’s your experience of learning German? What motivates you to learn it? Let us know in the comments!

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  • Matt

    I actually found German more readily absorbable than Italian to learn, the intuitive feel of the language is naturally closer to English I believe than the Romance languages. So that FSI study of placing German at a harder level than the romance languages doesn’t quite gel with my experience. I suspect though the classroom approach of drilling grammar and cases may cause slower progression in the language.

    • Hey Matt. Yes, from what I know of German learners, grammar is something that can cause a lot of headaches, but as you say that’s partially because it’s what it taught in classrooms. Self-directed learners might not have the same experience.

      I think German certainly is structurally more involved than Italian, but there are certainly plenty of similarities with English which help to get a foothold.

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