April 5, 2024

How long does it take to learn a language: Foreign Service Institute (1947)

by Mateusz Wiącek

The Foreign Service Institute (FSI) was established in 1947. It is the primary training institution for personnel of the United States Department of State and other foreign affairs agencies. The FSI is responsible for providing language training, professional development, and other educational programs to support the work of U.S. diplomats and foreign service officers. The institute plays a crucial role in preparing individuals for assignments in various countries and regions by offering language courses and cultural training.

The Foreign Service Institute (FSI) has categorized languages into different groups based on their perceived difficulty for English speakers. These categories are meant to provide a general idea of the time and effort required to achieve proficiency in a particular language. 

The categories nowadays are as follows. The number of hours is an estimate of how long is needed to achieve fluency. They refer to English-speaking people. 

  • Category 1: Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, Italian, Dutch. 600–750 hours of study.
  • Category 2: German. 30 weeks of study.
  • Category 3: Indonesian, Swahili, Malaysian. 36 weeks of study.
  • Category 4: Polish, Thai, Zulu, Vietnamese (and many others). 44 weeks of study.
  • Category 5: Arabic, Cantonese, Mandarin, Japanese, Korean. 88 weeks of study.

Leave a Reply