Learning a language is not as easy as it seems. You might have spent years learning it whole-heartedly, but still, aren’t even close to mastering it. This is because learning a new language could take months and even years of dedicated study. Not to forget, this will only help you become conversational. In case you want to be fluent, then complete immersion in the native country is what you will need!
So how long does it take to learn a new language? Let’s find out.
What Happens to Your Brain When You Learn a New Language
In a recent study conducted by Swedish scientists, it was found that learning a foreign language could increase the size of your brain. They reached this conclusion after scanning the brains of people who learned a second language.
The participants were classified into two categories: young military recruits with a flair for varied languages and a control group of medical science students who although studied hard, but not languages.
It was found that brain structures of the control group remained unchanged while the brains of the language students showed significant signs of development in terms of size.
Who Tend to Be Fast Language Learners?
A new paper published in the journal Cognition used a Facebook-quiz-powered method to understand how human being learns a language, and what impact age has on this process.
The study found that you are more likely to obtain a native-like fluency in the language if you start learning it before the age of 18 than if you start leaning later. However, this doesn’t mean that adults can’t attain fluency just because they started late.
The study found that thousands of adults who started learning after they were at least 20 years old were able to attain a native-level fluency.
Another recent study studied the correlation between bilingualism and learning a third language. It was found that students who already knew two languages were easily able to gain command over the third language when compared to people who are fluent in only one language
According to Prof. Abu-Rabia,
“Gaining command of a number of languages improves proficiency in native languages. This is because languages reinforce one another, and provide tools to strengthen phonologic, morphologic and syntactic skills. These skills provide the necessary basis for learning to read. Our study has also shown that applying language skills from one language to another is a critical cognitive function that makes it easier for an individual to go through the learning process successfully. Hence, it is clear that tri-lingual education would be most successful when started at a young age and when it is provided with highly structured and substantive practice.”
How Long Does It Take to Become Fluent in a Language?
Undoubtedly, there are various factors that impact how long it will take you to learn a new language.
There are more than 6,000 languages, and they all range from easy to difficult. Spanish, for example, is easy to pick up for English speakers. While others like Arabic and Mandarin which make use of different alphabets and symbols could be really tough to master. Learn more about the difficulty of learning different languages here: 7 Hardest Languages to Learn For English Speakers
Another important factor that impacts the time it will take you to learn a language is how you choose to learn it. Are you going to join language classes? Or do you intend to use an app or an online program? Or do you plan to travel to the concerned country for a more immersive experience? Answers to all these questions will help you in gauging as to how much it will take you to master the language.
According to the American Council of Teaching Foreign Language Guidelines measures the time, it will take by breaking down the different levels of language learning into varied steps. Foreign Service Institute (FSI) believes that determining the difficulty of a language to calculate the timings are essential:
Category I includes languages closely related to English like Swedish, Afrikaans, Dutch, French, Norwegian, Romanian, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and the likes. Mastering these languages will take around 575 to 600 hours or 23 to 24 weeks.
Category II includes the languages which are similar to English like German and estimated that it will take 30 weeks or 750 hours to attain the desired fluency.
Category III talks about languages which are different linguistically when compared to English. Such languages include Swahili, Indonesian, and Malaysian. They will take you 36 weeks or 900 hours to master.
Category IV includes languages like Hindi, Thai, Hungarian, Latvian, Bulgarian, Bengali, Nepali, and others. Essentially, these languages have significant linguistic differences and take around 44 weeks or 1100 hours to attain mastery.
Category V includes languages that are exceptionally difficult for native English speakers. These include Korean, Japanese, Arabic, Mandarin, and Chinese. They take around 88 weeks or 2,200 hours.
If you are planning to learn a new language, now is the right time to get started. Learning a new language not only eliminates language barriers, but it is also found to be associated with various other benefits – it can improve memory and perception and lower your chances of suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s. You can find more benefits of learning a new language in this article: 12 Surprising Benefits of Learning a New Language
If you’re ready to take up a new language, here’s what to do: How to Learn a New Language Fast (A Step-By-Step Guide)
Featured photo credit: David Iskander via unsplash.com
|||^||Science Daily: Language learning makes the brain grow, Swedish study suggests|
|||^||Science Direct: A critical period for second language acquisition: Evidence from 2/3 million English speakers|
|||^||Science Daily: Bilinguals find it easier to learn a third language|
|||^||American Council of Teaching Foreign Language: Teaching Guidelines|