Thoughts of a linguist...

The time it takes to become fluent in a foreign language from scratch varies depending on a variety of factors such as the complexity of the language, the intensity and consistency of study, the learner's motivation and aptitude, and the availability of immersion opportunities.


However, the general consensus among language experts is that achieving fluency in a foreign language can take several years of dedicated study and practice. Fluency is typically defined as the ability to communicate effortlessly in most situations, understand native speakers, and express oneself accurately and effectively.


To give you a rough estimate, the US Foreign Service Institute estimates that it takes an average of 600-750 hours of study to reach a B2 level of proficiency, which is considered to be upper intermediate. At this level, you can converse comfortably on a wide range of topics, read and understand authentic texts, and write with a reasonable degree of accuracy. However, achieving fluency typically requires reaching a C1 or C2 level of proficiency, which can take several hundred additional hours of study and practice.


The FSI (Foreign Service Institute) categorizes languages into four groups based on their difficulty for native English speakers to learn:


Category 1: Languages closely related to English (e.g. Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese) - takes around 600-750 hours of study


Category 2: Languages with linguistic and/or cultural differences from English (e.g. German, Indonesian, Swahili) - takes around 900-1100 hours of study


Category 3: Languages with significant linguistic and/or cultural differences from English (e.g. Arabic, Chinese, Korean, Japanese) - takes around 2200 hours of study


Category 4: Languages with exceptionally difficult linguistic and/or cultural differences from English (e.g. Hungarian, Finnish, Estonian) - takes around 2200 hours of study.


It's important to keep in mind that language learning is a long-term process and requires consistent effort and practice over a period of years. However, with dedication and the right resources, it is definitely possible to achieve fluency in a foreign language.

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