December 18, 2023

How long does it take to learn a foreign language? And how to accelerate it with Taalhammer

by Anna Zielazny

I started learning English when I was still in elementary school, but it took me a long time to achieve fluency. I even had private lessons, yet some of my friends mastered the language much faster than I did. At the time, I thought I simply didn’t have a predisposition for the language, or that my friends who did better had something I didn’t have. Later, however, when I was in high school, I started learning French, and that’s when the situation reversed – I was in the minority who started speaking quickly, while others had considerable problems. However, this does not mean that I had talent, or lack thereof. The truth is quite different: it is not really known how long it takes to learn a foreign language. After all, success depends on many factors, including character traits, but it mostly depends on the techniques one uses to learn. 

Two things are certain, however – learning a foreign language is not a trivial matter and no one will learn it for you. You are the one who has to apply yourself to the task and put in a lot of effort, work and also time. There is no secret titled “fast language learning,” nor is there a magic answer to the question “how can you master English in 15 minutes a day?”. However, if you undertake the task, we can assure you that there will be rewards waiting for you: immense satisfaction, expanded horizons, a new outlook on the world and the opportunity to make friends with people from other cultures.

There is a myth according to which learning a foreign language is very difficult and achieving proficiency is almost impossible or achievable only by a few. Actually your results will depend on many factors, but the use of correct methods and tools will accelerate your learning. 

Read this article to learn them. You will also find advice on what methods will help you speed up your learning process.

What is the problem?

Learning any foreign language is quite difficult, because the human language is a very advanced system. Each language has tens and sometimes hundreds of thousands of words. According to research, in English alone you can find 170,000 words (despite this, native speakers use only 15–30 thousand of them). Without words, of course, you can’t express anything, including your views. Nor will you be able to understand what other people are trying to communicate. 

To be able to talk about a non-trivial topic in a foreign language, you need to know about 3,000 words. Although this is a very small percentage of all words, it can be very difficult to remember what they mean. What’s more, in language, words rarely occur on their own. Words combine with others to form sentences. As you might guess, not every combination of words will be correct. If you want to be able to carry on a conversation, you also need to know how to combine whole phrases into sentences, and further, sentences into conversation. Only specific combinations of phrases and words are correct. If you can’t build sentences, you won’t be able to speak. 

In order to speak fluently, you must not only memorize words, but also be able to “process” them at a rate of about 120 words per minute – of course, in the right arrangement and combination. What’s more, you must also pronounce them in the right way. 

Unfortunately, there is no solution that will allow you to magically learn a language in a month or two. Anyone who claims it’s possible is passing the buck.

How long does it take to learn a language?

As I mentioned in the introduction, it’s impossible to say exactly how long it will take you to become proficient in a language. Each person will learn differently. So we can’t tell you exactly how much time you need to learn a foreign language. However, we do know average values that indicate how long it takes to master English at each level. It’s worth noting here, however, that there are many such lists, and the timeframes are somewhat different.

Learn some of the ways to determine language proficiency, as well as what language levels mean.

According to the Cambridge English Language Assessment (CELA) exam board, for example, it takes 80 to 120 hours to master a language at A1 level; at A2 level it takes 180–200 hours, B1 350–400 hours, B2 500–600 hours, C1 700–800 hours, and C2 1000–1200 hours.

According to Education First (EF), on the other hand, the time needed to know a language is:

  • A1 – 70 hours
  • A1 to A2 – 150 hours
  • A2 to B1 – 300 hours
  • B1 to B2 – 200 hours
  • B2 to C1 – 200 hours
  • C1 to C2 – 200 hours.

The Council of Europe, on the other hand, specifies that to master a language at the A1, A2, and B1 levels, one should spend 120 hours for each level, and at the B2, C1, C2 levels, about 240 hours for each level. 

Most organizations agree that it takes about 600 hours to acquire the B2 level. We have observed the same in Taalhammer. This is due, among other things, to the research and conversations we have had with Taalhammer employees over the years – it took our employees just that long to master English. What’s more, we closely monitor the statistics of our users using our app. We also talk to people who have reached a high conversational level. We have no doubt that the results are due to the effective learning methods used.

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How to accelerate language learning with Taalhammer 

Many people like to learn at their own pace, so online learning is ideal for them. You can find an almost endless amount of language learning materials on the Internet. Be aware, however, that not all of them are adequate. 

How long it takes to learn a foreign language depends on so many factors that it’s impossible to determine how many hours you’ll have to spend studying. However, there are effective methods that will allow you to master the language so that you will be able to use it later. So what if you spend 500 hours studying if you can’t put a sentence together in a foreign language? 

If your goal is to start using your target language in everyday situations, check out the Taalhammer app. It was developed based on years of research and experience. In it we have used techniques that can bring tangible results to your efforts in a short time.

Spaced repetition 

The first of these methods is our proprietary Spaced Repetition algorithm. This method is based on the so-called forgetting curve discovered 150 years ago. 

In Spaced Repetition you repeat a given piece of material at an optimal frequency. The algorithm uses the theory of the forgetting curve to bring up the material that needs repetition at the right moment. The better you do with the given phrases, the less often they will appear; the worse, the more often. In this way, your brain remembers better and sends the information faster to the long-term memory, from which the phrases and expressions in question can be automatically and easily recalled when the need arises, for example, during a conversation in a foreign language.

Create your own content

Taalhammer also has an Creator mode that uses artificial intelligence to assist you in adding your own content. 

Why is this worth doing? First, you will remember much better what you have created yourself. Second, the examples describe your life, so there’s a good chance you’ll use them in everyday conversations. By learning the content of your choice, your learning will not only be more interesting, but more effective. Research shows that if we learn something we are familiar with, as well as something that interests us and arouses positive emotions, we find it easier to remember information.

Memorizing complete sentences (rather than words) 

Very often when learning a language you learn vocabulary words and grammar rules. Then you hope to simply construct sentences during a conversation. Anyone who has tried to learn this way knows that it obviously doesn’t work in most cases. What we should be doing is exactly the opposite. We should practice not just words, but whole sentences, and only occasionally support them with a grammatical rule.

At Taalhammer, we chose the most common words and then built more than 5,000 example sentences from them, mostly variations of themselves, such as questions, negations, hypotheses, etc. 

The full-sentence learning method used in Taalhammer is an excellent way to quickly develop language skills. With it, you not only learn new vocabulary words, but also automatically memorize sentence structures and learn grammar – even if you don’t realize it. Your brain then processes and systematizes the knowledge to use it at the right moment. You’ll practice nativist habits and develop language reflexes that will keep you talking from day one.

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