How long does it take to learn Spanish? There's no one answer to this question.
No two people will have the same experience learning Spanish (or any other language).
How long it will take YOU to learn Spanish will depend on a number of factors:
Spanish is one of the most popular languages to learn, with over 500 million people speaking Spanish as either a first or second language.
There are a number of great reasons to learn Spanish, whether you plan to travel to a Spanish-speaking country or want to experience the rich literary tradition Spanish has to offer.
Let's take a look at each factor to give you an idea of how long your personal Spanish-learning journey will take.
Any language experience you already have will contribute to how easy or difficult it will be for you to learn Spanish.
If you do speak another language other than English, how close is that language to Spanish?
Spanish is a Latin-based language and is most similar to other Romance languages:
If you already speak French, for example, Spanish will be relatively easy for you to learn since the two languages share a common background. You'll notice a ton of similarities right away in grammar, vocabulary, and (sometimes) pronunciation.
Proficiency in German, Cantonese, or any other language that is not based in Latin will give you less of an advantage when learning Spanish.
That's not to say you won't still have an advantage, though!
Experience learning any language—no matter how far removed from Spanish—is likely to have given you skills you can apply to your study of Spanish.
And what if Spanish is the first language you learn outside of your native language?
That's okay, too! Just know that it may take you more time to learn Spanish than it might for someone with experience in Italian or Portuguese.
When you say you want to “learn Spanish”, what do you mean?
The more proficiency you are expecting of yourself, the longer it will take.
It'll take quite a long time to speak Spanish like a true native speaker. But you can get pretty close by focusing on the ability to hold conversations at full speed without pausing or stopping.
To do that, you'll need to beat your fear and start speaking Spanish right away.
The sooner you start speaking Spanish, the sooner you will overcome your nerves and build your confidence. Don't let fear of mistakes hold you back!
Locate a language tutor or speaking partner online or in your local community. If you have a friend or family member that already speaks Spanish, enlist their help.
If you still need help knowing where to begin, check out this list of 71 common Spanish phrases to get your conversations started and keep them going.
What does that mean for you, assuming you aren't spending 8 hours a day in language classes?
The first thing you can take away from that information is that Spanish is (relatively) easy for English speakers to learn. Other languages in the 600-750 hour range include Danish, Italian, and French.
In comparison, the “super-hard” languages—such as Arabic, Japanese, and Korean—are estimated to take upwards of 2200 hours for the average English speaker to learn.
The second takeaway you can glean from the FSI ranking is that it is ultimately up to you how long you stretch out those 600-750 hours of learning.
The more time you dedicate to studying and practicing Spanish each day, the faster you will get through those learning hours.
If you're wondering how much time I think you should spend learning Spanish, I suggest you set aside at least 60-90 minutes each day for dedicated Spanish learning.
If learning Spanish quickly is your top priority, you'll want to spend even more time on Spanish practice and study, whether that means waking up early or giving up regular weekend activities to jumpstart your Spanish learning.
The times I've learned a new language the fastest have all been when I threw myself into the language study with every extra minute I could spare each day.
Ultimately, motivation matters more than any other factor.
Why is that?
No matter how much language experience you have or how much time and effort you dedicate to learning Spanish, you'll get frustrated and discouraged at some point in your journey to Spanish fluency.
Learning a language is not meant to be easy.
It's still hard for me, eight languages in. I still struggle with consistency, fear of making mistakes, and finding enough focus to keep at it every day.
So yes, it is hard, but you will get there!
Throughout the whole learning process, it's important to keep your motivation at the forefront.
Why do YOU want to learn Spanish?
When you can answer that question clearly, write it down! Refer back to your reason(s) often, especially when you start to feel discouraged.
Tapping into your passion and reason for learning Spanish in the first place will help keep you motivated through the frustration.
If you need a motivational boost right now, start here.
Given the factors we've discussed above, you're probably still hoping for a timeframe for learning Spanish right? Well, a year is totally reasonable if you've got the time and energy to put in.
Does a year seem too long? Do you have a trip planned? Or a goal to learn Spanish faster than one year?
Again, your experience will vary based on the factors I discussed earlier.
It might take you more than a year to reach your desired level of fluency. Or you may be able to get to confidence in casual conversation much faster than one year if you have a knack for learning languages and really focus on your Spanish study.
If I was trying to reach the point of confidently speaking Spanish in just a few months, here's what I would do.
One of the biggest traps you can fall into as a beginner Spanish learner is trying to learn Spanish grammar perfectly.
If you're trying to learn Spanish quickly, you can't get bogged down with specific details of Spanish grammar.
Learn the basics, accept that you will make some mistakes at first, and spend that time building your vocabulary instead.
It won't matter how well you know Spanish grammar if you don't know enough words. So build a foundation of diverse, practical vocabulary first and let the grammar come along more slowly.
Even if you start with vocabulary, you'll need to know the basics of Spanish grammar and syntax.
Find a high-quality self-study course that'll let you work through the course as quickly (or slowly) as you need.
That way, YOU are in control of the pacing of your Spanish learning.
If you're looking for a course that'll immerse you in Spanish and help you discover the grammar naturally, then check out Spanish Uncovered, my story-based beginner course.
Simply put, regularly speaking Spanish with a native Spanish speaker is the key to learning Spanish quickly.
One of the reasons that moving abroad and language immersion programs are so effective is that you're forced to use your target language right away as part of everyday life.
If you want to recreate that accelerated proficiency, start speaking Spanish as soon as you can.
Even if you can barely hold a conversation, the right Spanish tutor will help you improve so much faster than studying alone ever will.
The more written and spoken Spanish you can work into your day, the faster you will learn the language.
Take advantage of your commute, exercise routine, and time spent running errands or doing chores to listen to Spanish audiobooks, podcasts, or news.
Making Spanish a part of your life will boost your confidence and speed up the learning process at the same time.
In the end, YOU have control over how long your language-learning process will take because you are the one who decides how much time and effort you'll dedicate to learning Spanish.
If you're looking for some resources to help to read and listen to, check out:
Short Natural Dialogues to Boost Your Confidence & Improve Your Spoken Spanish
Improve your comprehension, grow your vocabulary and ignite your imagination with these eight unconventional Spanish short stories! (Beginner). Volume 2 and an intermediate version are also available.
So how long does it take to learn Spanish? Well, it's reasonable to give yourself a full year to learn Spanish. But then again, it might be faster if you really throw yourself into the work.
No matter how long it takes you to learn Spanish, mastering a language is a lifetime pursuit…
Even after you can hold conversations with native Spanish speakers without pauses and stopping, there will still be more you can learn.
Picking up specialised vocabulary, mastering idioms, and improving your accent are all steps you can continue to take to reach higher levels of fluency.
No matter how long it takes you to learn Spanish, it'll be well worth the effort!
Has this post and the time frame for learning Spanish encouraged you to start? How long did it take you to get fluent in Spanish? Share your thoughts in the comments.
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