How long does it take to learn Spanish?

When setting a goal to learn Spanish, there are some questions that often hit students: “how long is this going to take?”, “when will I be able to speak Spanish easily?”… in other words: how long to learn Spanish?

Here’s a simple answer to that: it all depends on you.

why?…

just consider the following questions that only you can give an answer to:

  • What does it mean for you “to learn Spanish”?
  • Why are you so interested in Spanish?
  • How much time will you spend learning Spanish?
  • Have you learned other languages before?
  • How are you going to learn Spanish?

In this article, you will learn why the answers you give to these questions will determine the time you take until you get to your goal of actually learning Spanish.

You will also learn how you can optimize this process so you can achieve results faster.

This is very important to know because, no matter what method you use to learn Spanish, time plays an important role in your learning process, and if you don’t know how to deal with it, you may be at risk of dropping out at halfway of achieving your goal.

So let’s get right into the first question:

What does “how long to learn Spanish” mean to you?

In other words, what comes to your mind when you say “I want to learn Spanish“?

What level are you trying to hit?

When asked this question, people might give so many different answers.

For example, if you asked me what it meant to learn English back when I was just getting started, I probably would have said something like:

“When I sound exactly like a native speaker, then I will say that I know how to speak English”

However, this way of thinking implies that for the student, learning a new language would take way too much time.

When we think of emulating a native speaker perfectly, it means that:

  • You can understand 99% of spoken Spanish from a certain region. This includes slang, idioms, jokes, and sayings.
  • Using idioms and slang comes out of your mouth naturally and spontaneously.
  • Your problems of communication wouldn’t have anything to do with how you pronounce the words, but with the way you express ideas, just as it happens in your mother language.
  • You would make the same grammar and pronunciation mistakes that native speakers make.
  • Native speakers could not tell that you weren’t actually born in a Spanish speaking country.

Needless to say, aiming for a Spanish like this would take a long time and tons of immersion.

Just think of how much time it takes for babies to learn to speak, perfect their pronunciation, and master the accent of the area in which they grow up.

This process always takes years.

Now… why not aiming for something quicker and easier to achieve?

How about becoming “conversational” in Spanish?

 two ducks standing on the grass looking at each other

Basically, to be conversational in Spanish or in other language means that:

  • You can hold conversations in Spanish at full natural speed.
  • Your pronunciation is not perfect, but you don’t stop to think about words.
  • Native speakers understand everything you say in Spanish.
  • You can express ideas easily, but sometimes it’s hard to understand slang, technical jargon, or even idioms.
  • Some times, people can hear grammar mistakes in your speaking, but it doesn’t affect the flow of the conversation and you don’t stop to correct yourself.

Being conversational is way more realistic and achievable than wanting to sound exactly like a native speaker.

But how much time does it take to become conversational in Spanish?

Well, the FSI (Foreign Service Institute) suggests that for most English speakers, it takes around 600 to 750 hours to learn Spanish, that’s way less than all the years you need to speak just like a native speaker.

However, if you really want to emulate Colombians, Mexicans, Argentians or whatever, just set it as a goal and go for it, it is perfectly possible.

Just check out this guy from England telling his story of how he learned to speak Spanish.

If I would have heard him in the street, I honestly couldn’t tell he was not Spanish:

So, now you know that you need to clarify what it is that you want to achieve:

  • Do you just want to hold conversations in Spanish?
  • Or do you want to pass for a native speaker?
  • Or perhaps… all you want is the basics for your next holiday.

These levels will make a difference in the time you take to learn Spanish. However there are other factors that will have an impact on how long it will take you to get to your goal…

So, “how long to learn Spanish” you say?

Answer the following question for yourself:

Why are you so interested in Spanish?

Mike was an Australian student that I had on Verbling. When I met him, he was really excited about learning Spanish because he was planning a trip to Colombia soon.

He said he wanted to be fluent for his trip, so he started to take weekly lessons with me.

He seemed happy and motivated…

However, he never did homework, and he always told me that he was just “too busy” during the week.

The date of the trip arrived, he went on vacation to Medellín for threes weeks, and then he went back to Australia.

He never took classes again.

Did he fail at his goal of becoming fluent in Spanish?

No, his real goal was to learn some survival Spanish for his vacation.

What about you?… What are your reasons to learn Spanish?

Just be honest with yourself and find your reasons.

Remember that learning a language is a process that takes time and effort, so you will need good reasons to stay motivated during your Spanish learning journey.

Consider the following questions:

  • Do you want to make Spanish speaking friends?
  • Are you looking to date Spanish people?
  • Do you want to enjoy literature in Spanish?
  • Do you need Spanish for your job?
  • Are you planning to move to Latin América or Spain?
  • Do you just enjoy Spanish as a hobby?

If you actually said “yes” for any of the questions above, go for it: the stronger your reasons, the faster you will learn Spanish.

Nevertheless, if you’re like Mike, and you just need Spanish for your next holiday, make sure you find a course that teaches you the basic survival phrases and then just go and enjoy your time in Cartagena.

The time you hang out with Spanish

 kids playing with with water in a small lake

The truth is that just like in a real relationship, in which you need time to get to know the other person, like her, and appreciate her for who she is, you need time to learn Spanish and master all the different aspects of the language.

Now, when I say “the time you hang out with Spanish“, I mean the time you spend not only in the classroom, but the time you spend listening, speaking, reading, and writing Spanish.

Remember I told you the FSI says that a regular person needs 600-750 hours to learn Spanish?

Well, let’s say you do an hour a day of Spanish learning, that means that you would need around two years and a half to learn.

It’s just a basic rule of life: the more time do something, the better you get at it.

So my advice is that you spend at least 2 to 3 hours every day, and it doesn’t mean 3 hours of Spanish class every day, you can do lots of different activities like:

  • Listen to podcasts.
  • Have Spanish conversations.
  • Chat with a tutor in Spanish online.
  • Read a book.
  • Watch videos or movies.

Just get creative, you might even optimize your time to learn Spanish as you do your daily activities like driving, cleaning, or reading a book during your lunch break.

If you do this, you could reduce the time you take to master Spanish.

It could take you 6 months, or even less as it happened to Connor Grooms from Baselang, check out his documentary in which he shows all his progress:


Have you learned other languages before?

Another factor that can determine how long you take to learn Spanish is the fact that you learned other languages in the past, why?

First, because it will give you a psychological spike of capability.

Just think about it: you already learned a language different than the one you were raised with, so what’s stopping you from learning Spanish?

If you had success in this process in the past, you certainly can get it with Spanish.

In fact, if you already speak a language close to Spanish like Portuguese, French, or Italian, you will notice lots of similarities with Spanish in areas like:

  • Grammar
  • Vocabulary
  • Pronunciation

Actually, even though English is not as close as French to Spanish, you may see some similarities in vocabulary.

This happens because lots of words are from Latin origin.

Being aware of these similatiries may reduce the time you spend learning vocabulary because you may get the feeling of knowing some words intuitively.

How are you going to learn Spanish?

hands writing in notebook next to a tablet

This question is very important too because it may optimize or slow down your Spanish learning.

However, I know everyone has their own way of doing things and lots of people don’t like to be told when they’re doing things wrong.

Anyway…

Just know that you could fall into bad habits to learn Spanish, and that way, end up feeling frustrated because you could seem to be taking a long time to actually learn to speak Spanish.

As a summary, some of the best practices that most successful Spanish students use are:

  • Listen to Spanish as much as you can.
  • Listen to easy to understand Spanish.
  • Get a Spanish tutor online.
  • Read as much as you can.
  • Surround yourself with Spanish as much as you can.
  • Have fun using Spanish.

In the end, if you don’t take control of your learning process and the strategies you use to learn, you will be like punching the air and just hoping for the best to happen.

Even worse, nobody will give an answer to the question: “How long to learn Spanish?“.

In my free ebook: 10 Secretos que nadie te dice para hablar español como un nativo (in full Spanish for intermediate students), I teach you some techniques to speed up the process of learning Spanish, you may get it in the form at the end of this article.

Enjoy your learning time

No matter how much time you take to finally understand native speakers and talk Spanish easily, the learning process needs effort.

And, even though you get to feel comfortable with Spanish, I’m sure you will keep learning more idioms, slang, technical jargon, and more vocabulary…

It may take you 6 months, 1 year, 2 years, but it’s all worth the effort.

So, how long to learn Spanish? You tell me… how long do you think it will take you? how long have you been studying? Is there something else you can do to learn faster?

Let me know in the comments below.

¿Quieres hablar español como un nativo?

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