Learning Spanish doesn’t happen overnight, but that raises the question: how long does it actually take? You don’t need to wonder anymore, we’re here to run through everything you need to think about when deciding how long it will take you to learn Spanish.
What the experts say
Fortunately, as most learners of a language usually have the same questions towards the time frame of their learning, there is quite a lot of research into how long it can take to learn Spanish.
The Foreign Service Institute – a branch of the US Department of State – is one of the prime driving forces behind this research and has given an accurate picture of what to expect:
For a student who already possesses a native level of English, the FSI estimates that they will need to spend, on average, 600 hours of classroom study to achieve “professional working proficiency”. This means you can expect to spend around 3 hours of Spanish classes a day for 24 weeks.
So, with the question successfully answered, we bid you adiós!
….Okay, unfortunately, it’s not so clear-cut.
What can change this number
While this figure is particularly helpful in getting a broad image, it is, first and foremost, an average. We’ll give you the factors that may change this number, so you can decide for yourself how much it applies to you!
Your native language
You may have noticed an important detail about the figure above: it’s a US organisation, creating an average based on English speakers. This is quite a specific niche which may not include you.
English and Spanish share several common features, as Spanish is a Latin language, and English has many Latin influences. This means English speakers are in a unique position where they will have an easier time learning Spanish than speakers of a wholly different language group, but they will have a harder time than a speaker of a true Latin language.
Your learning conditions
When you think of a Spanish classroom, you likely already have a clear image in your head of what to expect. A typical room within your local school, with desks, chairs, a whiteboard, and maybe some fun posters to help you remember the difference between tú and usted – right?
This may be true for many Spanish students, but, as with everything we’ve covered, it doesn’t apply to everyone!
Firstly, while the traditional methods of learning a language revolve heavily around a classroom, more and more students are opting to learn their language at home. This gives a lot of benefits to convenience, comfort and cost, but it tends to be less efficient than learning in the classroom. So, if you choose to study Spanish at home, you should factor in a little more time for you to reach your goals.
Another point to note is which country you’re choosing to study in. The participants in the study above were English speakers exclusively studying in US schools. If you choose to study Spanish in Spain (for example) you’re likely to shave some time off of that number!
The reasoning behind this is that if you’re learning a language in your home country, you are limiting your study time to your hours in the classroom and homework. However, if you study the language in a country that speaks it natively, you’ll essentially be studying in all of your interactions! This passive learning will do wonders for your progress.
Why you’re learning Spanish
The last factor we’re going to talk about is one of the most important, but least spoken about: your own motivation.
The reason you chose Spanish will be the main deciding factor as to how much you absorb in the classroom, how much time you spend studying outside the classroom, and ultimately how fast you learn the language.
There isn’t really any “right” answer here – your passion for Spanish can come from your love of reggaeton music, your interest in Spanish soap operas, your desire to live in Barcelona, or your dream job. As long as you look at Spanish as something that will benefit you rather than just your career – you’ll start to make much more progress.
So, in conclusion, today we learned that it will take, on average, 600 classroom hours for an English speaker to learn Spanish. But, if you want to apply that number to you, you need to factor in the things that will increase the amount of time it takes:
- Not speaking a Latin language
- Studying without a teacher
- Staying primarily in your own country
- Lack of motivation
…and decrease the amount of time it takes:
- Speaking a Latin language
- Your personal learning speed
- Learning from a teacher
- Travelling to a native Spanish-speaking country
- Good motivation
Not all of these factors can be controlled, but once you understand your personal learning speed, you can make realistic expectations and start smashing your language objectives!