How long does it take to learn a language?
I was talking to one of my friends today and they said it takes around 5 years to learn a language. I didn't believe them. But I wanted to know for those of you who have learned a language and are now fluent in it how long it took you to learn that language. I am learning Hebrew right now so if you have learned it could you tell me how long it took you to learn it? Also maybe any suggestions for a language that I could learn after Hebrew.
Well, that greatly depends on what level you want to reach in the language and how you want to know the language.
If you just want to understand a new language (even "fluently") that's a lot faster. You can learn to read a new language quite fast since all you need is passive vocabulary and you can get a lot from context. If you want to understand speech it will be a bit slower than reading, because of the speed, but it's still passive.
If you want to write or speak in a language you'd have to get more of a grip on grammar and your vocabulary would have to be active (you can't rely on context and just recognizing then remembering the meaning). Again writing is easier than speaking, because you have more time can read over it etc.
If you really want to be fluent like a native, it basically takes your whole life even in your own native language. To hold a conversation on simpler topics (i.e. not scientific or philosophical or otherwise complex) is a lot easier and enough for a lot of people, but not what is defined as "fluent".
It also depends on the language of course. Some languages just are a bit more difficult than others, it also depends on what languages you already know. And like someone else said - immersion! I have family members who learned languages incredibly fast because they were dropped into another country.
It took me about 7 years from my first exposure to English to me taking the TOEFL (Test of English as a foreign language) with near perfect results without even actively studying for the test because I already felt fluent. I guess it took me about 5-6 years. The first one or two years I only did what I had to do for school and wasn't particulary motivated. Then I started reading in English and watching DVDs with English audio. So it was quite fast, but English is relatively easy (no cases, barely any conjugations...).
Honestly, it depends on a plethora of factors IMHO: Are you learning that language on your own or are you taking classes? If you are taking classes: What is the way your teacher approaches the classes? Do you go beyond what is taught in classes/you teach yourself with lessons (I.e. You listen to music/watch movies/read books in your target language in your free time, you have friends that speak the language, etc)? What is your motivation? Do you keep that motivation "alive" during all of your learning time? Is the language completely new to you or is it already similar to your language/languages you know?
Depending on your answers to those and other questions and your commitment/effort, it might take you longer or shorter to lay the foundations of a language (and they might be stronger or weaker, no matter the time) and be fluent at it. Though I have to agree that once you start learning a language, you never stop learning a language, even if it is just some new words/expressions every once in a while. (EDIT: And never stop practicing it! Else it gets rusty and it takes effort to bring it back to how it was)
I would say it is all dependent on your motivation for learning the language and also how much of a need that language is for you. I am someone that really thrives in an immersion setting. I remove all opportunity to speak English (except where necessary i.e. work school or kids) and make everything I take in that day in that language.
it took me about 3-6 months depending on the language to get to a point where I was fine relying on myself for day to day things in both Czech (6m) and Spanish (3m). I say 3-6 months as thats the cumulative time I spent actively learning in school each language after that point I immersed my self in the language (I lived in a small town that oddly was largely Spanish speaking) I recently moved to Czech Republic and I find that more than any other language I have gone deepest in conversation in Czech. Now I won't say I am fluent at all in either but I will say that I can get my point across and can understand for most day to day things. I sometimes get lost and I still have to think my response in English and "translate" it to Czech but I am happy with my progress.
A friend of mine learned German in 7 months, he was also living in Germany for about 2 years after then came back to the US. How fast you learn a language depends on you and your resources. Hebrew is insanely hard, but if you really studied and got the correct exposure I'd say about a year and a half.
After 2 months of studying Spanish, I was able to ask for basic stuff about food, direction, price, etc. I did stay in Peru for 1 month though. I guess I was A1 level at that time.
Then I kept studying on and off my Spanish. 3 years later: I can now talk about what ever I want, I can read newspapers, watch some movies and have enough skills to write properly. I'm currently B2.
It really depends on your dedication and your surrounding/available resources. I guess I could have learned the language a lot faster if I:
Was more focused back then
Had better resources
Also, some languages are simply harder to learn and thus, more time is required.