There is a constant question I’ve been asked a lot during my seven years of experience as a teacher. That question is “when will I be able to speak this language (good)?”. The goal seems to be more important than the journey. Learners need a more or less precise forecast of the ending of their process, and they need it now. Even though it is not really possible to provide a one-size-fits-all answer with a specific number, I will try to do so. At the end of this article you will find an estimate amount of hours to become an independent user of the Spanish language. But before knowing that number, ask yourself these questions.
- What level will you consider good enough?
Will you use your Spanish to sing along reggaeton songs in the shower, or is your next job change dependent on your proficiency to communicate in the tongue of Cervantes?
Language skills are divided into six levels. The first one is equivalent to some basic knowledge, and the last one is similar to the understanding and expression of a native speaker. However, not every student aims to become an expert. In fact, most students are more than happy with only reaching the fourth level, also called B2. Therefore, to try to provide an answer with an amount of time, it is necessary to ask the students what level will be sufficient for them, depending on what they plan to use their skills for.
- What other language(s) do you know?
Is your mother tongue not an indo-european one? Will Spanish be your first foreign language or are you already bilingual?
Needless to say that if your first language is Chinese, but you’re already fluent in English, your process will be completely different than if your native and only language is Italian. Each tongue has its own mechanisms and organization. While some are similar to each other -or even intelligible-, others have very little in common. A Chinese student, who also speaks English, will be faced with completely new grammar structures and challenging pronunciation problems. On the other hand, the monolingual Italian one will have to make a greater effort to avoid contaminating Spanish with words and structures from their own language, even when “they sound natural”. Each process of learning is unique, and not all of them require the same amount of time and effort.
- How used are you to absorbing knowledge?
Are you still a young student? Or is learning Spanish a retirement hobby?
When it comes to remembering vocabulary, your level of memory fitness may affect your performance. A retired student, who has lost the practice of assimilating new concepts will have a slightly harder time than a younger student, who is still at school. Of course both students will be successful at the end, as long as they remain perseverant. However, the results may start to appear at a different pace.
- Where are you now?
Are you already living in a Spanish speaking community, or are you somewhere with no or little access to your target language?
The amount of exposure will also play a role in the speed at which you will learn. It is not the same to be forced to speak as a survival tool, than remembering words and concepts in a more abstract way. However, today it is a lot easier to find resources in any language you can imagine, at any time, thanks to the internet.
After having considered all these variables and to conclude and answer the million-dollar question, according to the Common European Framework of Reference, a given student without prior knowledge needs around 500-600 hours of study to reach a B2 level of fluency in a given language. So, if you are a talented student, and you constantly study two hours per day, three times a week, for around 22 months, it will take you almost two years to become an independent user of Spanish.
To start now, please send me a message to book a free level interview and test.