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How Many Years to get Fluent

How many years does it take to become fluent in a language.

From what I read, Duolingo is a great starting point, but it must be supplemented by watching movies of that language, conversing with people.

Just curious, how many years did it take you to get fluent in a language?

March 26, 2018



It totally depends on how much you study/practice. If you moved to a country and immersed yourself in the language and spoke with native speakers every day you would probably be doing pretty good after a year. As far as studying with duolingo and stuff like that I agree probably 5 years of every day practice is needed.

"Fluent" is a tricky word. No matter how good someone is at another language you can usually tell if they are not a native speaker.


I like this estimate...

The US Foreign Service Language institute published some numbers about how many hours required to learn different languages. For Spanish the number was 480 hours, based on classroom instruction. But people don’t just learn languages in the classroom. Very often factors outside the classroom are more influential.


I have a nice image (Voxy) "What are the hardest languages to learn?" saved locally here from FSI that estimates:

"To achieve language proficiency" for EASY languages (closely related to English) to reach ‘Speaking 3: General Professional Proficiency in Speaking (S3)’ and ‘Reading 3: General Professional Proficiency in Reading (R3)’.

  • 23-24 weeks
  • 575-600 class hours


I find this ACTFL Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI) rating table listed on LTI even much more interesting, as the different intermediate-advanced language stages are shown: https://www.languagetesting.com/how-long-does-it-take


Good question, I'm 76 years of age, born in the UK, and I think I was fluent in English when I was around 14 or 15!

I believe you MUST do a little every day, just as you did to learn whatever your native language is. Taking that into account, from learning a few tourist phrases for vacations till now has been maybe 15 years or so, but buckling down to a daily routine with DuoLingo over the past year has definitely helped both my comprehension and speaking ability!

Am I fluent? No! But I have the confidence to make a fool of myself with mistakes in Spanish and not worry about it. And my Spanish friends correct me now since I asked them to do so.

So maybe the answer is like - - How long is a piece of string :-)



Generally 5 years of everyday practice to be "fluent".


It depends on what you mean by fluent i have been learning Spanish for almost 1 years and i'm far from fluent but if you want to be really picky about pronunciation i'm still not even fluent in english after learning for almost 20 years but i don't really care about that because i can talk about everything


Thanks for pointing this out Betarage!
This exactly have been my thoughts :-)

How far have I come with Portuguese in 1,5 years learning it remotely on my own (without very good didactical online academic courses / books) and without listening to course audio CDs?

Well, more far than I have initially thought in 2016 I would come for my 1st Romance language, but still quite far away to be able to listen to TV shows, already speaking it, etc.
I grinned on your English example as I have been learning English as a 2nd language in Germany for more than 23 years (leaving out primary and secondary school) and using it in my EDV education and profession almost on a daily basis.

As I don't live in the UK/US and I am unfortunately also not involved in international IT projects, I do not have to speak it daily as I can not fully immerse in Germany which results in the fact, that I would not consider myself as being "fluent" - as of speaking - this language on a very high level (I surely could get by if I had to voice chat).

Personally I think at least (2) 3-5+ years are probably much more realistic to be able to listen and speak when you learn a (complete) new language from scratch (not the same language group) if somebody can not fully immerse into it.


I think study helps a lot. However, I moved to Ibiza in the winter so that I would be emersed in the language with no way around it. Most natives of the island have a little different dialect than the mainland and Europian Spanish is slightly different from Latin American Spanish. I go out a lot and try to engage in conversation with people.

I have found that you most of the native love that you are trying to learn the language and help you with pronunciations, as well as the proper way to say things (ie. pronouns, verbs). When one should be formal and when it is not necessary. Very helpful tips. I also watch television with subtitles both English and Spanish depending on what show I'm watching.

For instance, watching a show or movie I have seen a million times with Spanish subtitles or switch the language to Spanish. My friends say I'm getting better every day and have been able to have small complete conversations and order food totally in Spanish only after a few months. I say dive in and see if you can swim.


That’s right. 90 days @ 6 hours per day! Done deal:)


"how many years did it take you to get fluent" How do you define "fluent"? If you want to order a beer in a bar in Barcelona, you are probably already there! If you want to be mistaken for a Columbian in Cartagena, you may never make it ... There is really no clear answer to your question ...


Absolutamente! Correct JDR, when you can tell a joke is also some of the way there, but true fluency only comes with hard work, and most likely ONLY if you live the language.

On the other hand, I do know a few British ex-pats who have lived in Spain for as much as 32 years, and the total extent of their Spanish in a bar in Barcelona would be

San Miguel please?

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