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https://www.duolingo.com/kandersson79

How Long Does it Take to Learn a Second Language

I just found an interesting study where the author applies the '10,000 hours to become an expert rule', which claims that it takes 10,000 hours to reach expertise in any given subject. Please see the link below:

http://www.springinstitute.org/Files/howlongdoesittaketolearnasecondlanguageeatonspdf.pdf

Do you agree that it probably takes at least 10,000 hours to become fluent? I would probably agree. I studied English at school for about 10 years, then English at a university in the UK for about 6 months, but it wasn't until I did my degree in New Zealand that I started to feel fluent.

3 years ago

19 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/LitenStjarna
LitenStjarna
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It really depends on how they learn the language.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/kandersson79

The four scenarios on page 11 are quite amusing. Scenario 1 – 96 hours of classes per year at a foreign language school = 104 years to achieve fluency. Scenario 3 – One hour of dedicated self-study per day, 365 days per year = Approximately 27 years to fluency. Scenario 4 – Total immersion 16 hours per day = Approximately 2 years to achieve fluency.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Adelaiv
Adelaiv
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I agree, every individual has his own pace, capacity and strategy of learning.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/kandersson79

Language learning is definitely a complex activity that can be done in various ways. I would think that dedication and time are more important than your capacity, which I also guess is a lot harder to impact.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Adelaiv
Adelaiv
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I guess it would take a lot less if one talked to natives :)

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/kandersson79

Can you become fluent without talking to native speakers?

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Adelaiv
Adelaiv
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It depends anyway, there are geniuses, so to speak, who can do wonders only by watching movies, listening to music, reading out lout.... I've heard about such cases, but maybe they're rare, yes.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Adelaiv
Adelaiv
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Hmm, maybe not?

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/vcel10
vcel10
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Yes.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/remoonline
remoonline
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There are many fluent English speakers, all around the world, who learn English as a second language. Some of them may never actually interact with a native English speaker.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/rocko2012
rocko2012
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That 10,000 hour rule is more pop psychology than real science. Also I think that much training implies a much greater understanding of a subject than mere fluency implies.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/LucyMcMaster

i would agree too!

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Rob2042

At the rate I`m going I may be at the intermediate level after 10,000 hours. lol

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Seanchai35

The 10,000 hour concept has been repeated so often in non-scientific venues that the original meaning is often lost. Malcolm Gladwell often gets the blame for this, but I've read the book in which he discusses this phenomenon, and I don't think it's fair to blame him at all... the blame lies with all the people who read/reviewed the book and didn't read it carefully.

The 10,000 hour phenomenon states that on average, 10,000 hours of careful, deliberate, active learning wherein you are correcting or having someone else correct your mistakes, and seeking the next bit of new conceptual input as soon as you have mastered the previous one.... 10,000 hours of that kind of learning... will be enough to take you from beginner to "expert level" in most fields of study.

So, 10,000 hours of classroom learning? How much of classroom learning is careful, deliberate, active learning, and how much is listening to a teacher or watching your classmates deal with a concept you already know (or worse, completely don't understand)? Let's be generous and say that you have an amazing teacher and a small class, and 25% of the time you're in class, you're actively reading, speaking, and using the language. Suddenly, that 10,000 hours you've spent in class is only 2500 hours of active learning. No wonder many of us have taken years' worth of a language in a classroom environment and come out of it with very little to show for it.

Immersion? Well, that depends, too. During how many of those hours are you actively, carefully, deliberately practicing listening, speaking, reading, and writing? If you actually are doing those things 16 hours a day, yes, you will learn very quickly. If not, you won't... and this is why many people around the world can live in an immersion environment for years and never become fluent in the language of their country of residence.

Now.... what about one-on-one tutoring where all conversation, instruction, etc takes place in your target language? For most people, this is the quickest and most practical way to learn, because it places you in an environment where you're constantly having to think (active learning) and you're in an environment where you're asking and expecting for your mistakes to be corrected (kindly and appropriately). You'll still only get out of it what you put into it - one hour a week of language exchange will of course be slower than 4 hours of active learning immersion a day - but this is why language exchange works for so many people where other methods fail.

With immersion alone, it's very easy to memorize a few dozen stock phrases to get along in the other language, and then think in/talk to friends in/function in your native language the rest of the time. With self-study, you might be highly motivated, but you probably will make many mistakes that you don't even realize you're making (or if you do realize it, you're not sure how to correct it). With classroom learning, you as an individual are not getting enough time to practice actually using the language. Conversation exchanges and one-on-one tutors - good ones, anyway - avoid all of these pitfalls.

As for whether 10,000 hours of deliberate active learning will bring you to fluency, it depends what the person is exposing themselves to. I think 10,000 hours of active learning would get most people to B2 fairly easily, but if a person works in a technical field, or reads a lot of advanced material on abstract things (like literature or philosophy), 10,000 hours might get them to C1 or C2.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/vcel10
vcel10
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Just a note, you can learn (be really fluent) in a language in 2 years or less with a concerted effort. This is not a proven fact but I know of some one that learned Japanese ( in 18 months) and some one that learned Hebrew like an Israeli in 2 years.

Note, 10,000 hours is less than 2 years.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/kandersson79

I am sure that someone knows (or have heard of) someone who learnt a second language without studying, speaking to natives or being exposed to the language whilst being awake. But the rest of us must have realistic expectations!

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/vcel10
vcel10
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Ahhh, you sound like an adult where our expectations are limited due to the time we have available. While it may not be realistic for many, it is very doable. There are many jobs that allow you to spend time thinking, listening, and talking.

I don't think there's anything unrealistic about being able to spend some what 10,000 consecutive (allowing for sleep of course) dedicated to learning a language, craft or hobby.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/rspreng

10,000 hours is the time one spends actively engaged in learning, not simply the passage of time.10,000 hours is equivalent to working forty hours a week for five years.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/vcel10
vcel10
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Yes, there are people who actively spend time on their craft, some do it while they're working 40 hours a week and/or while they're in school. And I've heard and know of those truly fortunate people who have the time to dedicate their time to their hobby or craft without worry about work or putting their child(ren) to sleep at night.

3 years ago