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How long does it take?

People always ask me how quickly they can “learn” a second language, like English for example. I always answer that it depends on your level, and whether the language you are learning shares a lot of vocabulary with a language you already know (Italian-Spanish-even English; Korean-Japanese-Chinese etc.). Most of all it depends on how much effort you put in.

Along with motivation, intensity is one of the most important principles of language learning. If you spend at least 90 minutes per day for six days out of seven every week, you will make a significant breakthrough in three months. If you study 3 hours a week you will achieve very little.

A breakthrough might mean getting to basic conversation ability starting from zero. It might mean going from basic conversation to the ability to express more complex thoughts and read comfortably. You will know when you have made a breakthrough and it feels good.

Of course your activity must be intense. Sitting in language class may not be intense, especially if there 15 other students in the class. Personal study is intense. I am talking about reading, listening, learning words and phrases and using them in writing and speaking. You can do that with a minimum amount of tutoring.

Language learning is an ongoing process. You are always less than perfect but you should be constantly improving if you do it right. It is a long road of gradually getting more and more comfortable in the language. It should always be enjoyable but it does require deliberate effort.

I am not sure if this clarifies things or makes things more confusing.