This question cannot be answered in one word or sentence for all learners and all languages. It is not possible to predict how much time achieving fluency will take, since it is a very individual process. Achieving fluency in a foreign language depends on many factors. There are “easy” and “difficult” languages for an English speaker. There are languages in which it is much easier to master speaking and listening skills than reading and writing skills, etc.
Do not expect too much at the beginning stage. Set realistic objectives that you know you can do, and do not let yourself get discouraged. You can avoid developing a negative attitude toward learning the language when you realize that success comes slowly, step by step, at each stage of learning.
Some have been exposed to foreign languages before, while for others it is the first foreign language experience.
What type of learners are there?
There are many types of learners who are learning a language. Here I have the four major types found in just about any language learning situation.
It must be perfect. Some want to learn a language perfectly. They want to rely on rules and structures, and do not want to use the language unless they are confident about how they are going to perform. Then when they find the time to actually use the language, they may be disappointed when they find native speech difficult to understand.
Because of this waiting for perfection, it will take longer to get things right. And in doing so, it will seem to take forever to get a decent sentence out, thus giving the illusion of taking a long time to learn a new language. Of course, with many language courses indirectly demanding that the student has to get it right before they move on helps the myth of 100% perfection go on.
Don’t laugh at me. Some people are shy by nature. They are afraid to appear ridiculous and slow down their learning by denying themselves the opportunities to practice. It’s perfectly natural to have this fear; I’ve experienced it many times in my language career, and sometimes still do.
In a previous post, I wrote: “Don’t be shy – Learning a language will eventually involve using it and that involves making mistakes in the beginning. Don’t be afraid of sounding strange, awkward or silly. If you don’t open your mouth and speak, you’ll miss out on making new friends, or getting the information you need (especially in an emergency!). You will impress people with your attempts at using the language. And the more you speak and interact, the faster your mistakes will go away.”
Try this exercise: say just one word to someone in another language (make sure they are a speaker of that language). It can be a simple greeting like “Hello” or “Good morning”. And listen to the reply – most likely a repeat of the greeting. Once you get past that hurdle, you’ll find that asking “How are you” may be a little easier. And don’t worry about making mistakes, the other person will understand you’re learning their language and will be friendly and cooperative in helping you learn.
I want it now! Still others are impatient, want to learn everything at once, and get discouraged by lack of immediate results.
Stop right there. You can never rush through a language lesson, or force yourself to hurry up to talk to people. I tried it when I first started learning a language and it doesn’t work. Taking the time to read the notes, learn pronunciation and try it out cannot be done in a few minutes. You also can’t learn a language in 10 days, no matter how much you try. Taking your time is the best thing you can do. It will give you satisfaction and bring results you’ll be proud of.
Check the archives
We have other articles written in the past that gives tips and ways to improve your language skills, and encourage you to try new ways to keep things from going stale. Why not give them a read if you haven’t done so yet? The best ones are:
Transparent Language also has some free software to help you learn new vocabulary words fast and easy. Download their Before You Know It Express software today – available in over 70 languages and see how easy it is.