There’s a common misconception that only certain people have the natural ability to learn a new language fast. It’s true that it takes most people years to get anywhere near native fluency in a new language, but anyone can become conversational in a second language in much less time.
Of course, not all languages require the same amount of time to learn. However, if you follow the tips for learning languages fast found in this article, you’ll be able to make big leaps towards becoming conversationally fluent in any language you want to learn.
How long does it take to learn a new language?
There’s no easy answer to this question. The amount of time it takes to learn a second language depends on factors like what your native language is, what new language you choose to learn, how often/how long you study for, and what methods you use to teach yourself the language.
For native English speakers, the fastest way to learn a language is to select one of the easier ones to learn, which include Spanish, French, Portuguese and Italian. Experts suggest that you can reach conversational proficiency in any of these languages in about 23 or 24 weeks (or 575 to 600 hours of studying).
On the other hand, medium- and hard-difficulty languages may take you from 44 to 88 weeks (or 1,110 to 2,200 class hours).
What is the quickest way to learn a language?
Traditional classroom instruction and language immersion are always great for learning a new language, but there are many other ways to learn a language quickly and easily.
You don’t have to pay for an intensive course or travel to another country, either. Try some of the expert tips for learning languages fast below and you’re sure to see results!
Pro tips for how to learn a language fast by yourself:
1. Develop daily language learning habits
Consistency is key when you’re looking for the fastest way to learn a language. Get into the habit of practicing whatever language you want to learn every single day.
Even if you only have 15-20 minutes some days, there are plenty of little things you can do in that amount of time, like reviewing new vocabulary or watching an episode of a TV show or a short film in your chosen language.
2. Learn cognates
Cognates are words in different languages that are derived from a word in the same parent language, such as Latin. The words are closely related and look and/or sound very similar (or even identical), so it should be easy for you to learn and remember them.
English shares many cognates with the Romance languages, or the group of languages that are all descended from Latin. If you want to learn a Romance language like Spanish, for instance, learning the cognates is definitely going to speed up the process of becoming conversational.
Here’s an example of a cognate in Spanish versus English: Composición vs composition.
3. Focus on the most common, relevant words
Think about how many words you know in English that you don’t use regularly, and how many more there are that you’ve probably never even heard or read. This is the same in any language — the number of words you actually need to know to have a conversation are relatively limited.
The average number of words you need to know to be conversationally fluent in another language is typically somewhere between 2,000 to 3,000. These are the words you’ll come across most frequently in newspapers, shows, movies, etc.
Focusing on learning these words first is one of the best tips for how to learn a language quickly and easily because you won’t be overwhelmed trying to memorize a whole bunch of vocabulary that you aren’t likely to use or hear.
4. Study with flashcards
Speaking of learning and memorizing vocabulary, a great way to do this is by using flashcards. You can make your own physical flashcards, create digital ones, or use a platform that has built-in flashcards to review new words and phrases you learn.
5. Use Lingopie
Lingopie is one of the best ways to learn Spanish, French, Portuguese, Italian, German, or Russian simply by watching TV and movies in those languages. You might be wondering how you can learn a new language by watching TV, and the answer is through “language exposure.”
Language exposure means how much contact you have with a language that you’re learning, outside of a classroom setting. For example, it’s how much you hear it being spoken or see it written when you’re not explicitly studying.
If you don’t live somewhere where you hear the language you’re learning around you all the time, watching TV and movies in that language is one of the best ways to learn a language. This is because you’re exposing yourself to it and learning from context, not just by drilling grammar and vocab or reading textbooks.
Popular films and TV shows feature people who speak the language as people really do in conversations, so you can learn the most common, relevant words (and slang). This goes a long way towards making you conversational in your chosen second language.
What’s great about Lingopie is that every episode or movie has the option to watch it with subtitles in its native language or with English subtitles. Not only that, but you can click on the subtitles at any time to get an instant translation.
When you’re done watching something, you can review everything you just learned with the built-in word lists and flashcards. It’s the perfect addition to your daily language learning routines.
How many hours a day should I study a foreign language?
There’s no set-in-stone rule for how many hours a day you should study to learn a language fast. However, language experts generally agree that shorter, more focused sessions of 30 minutes to 1 hour every day are better than hours-long sessions once or twice a week.
To ensure your study sessions are effective, you should actively study for at least 30 minutes. This means doing some sort of study activity like writing, reviewing flashcards, or taking notes while you listen to or watch something in a foreign language.
In addition to actively studying, you should also aim to get some language exposure every day, which you can do by watching a TV show or movie in the language.
Remember that no matter how much time you have to dedicate to learning a new language, the fastest way to learn a language is by staying consistent. Schedule time every day to study, practice, and expose yourself to a foreign language.
You don’t have to use the same methods to study every day, either! Feel free to switch it up so you’re enjoying your language learning time and to see what works best for you.
What's the hardest language for English speakers to learn?
The hardest languages for English speakers to learn are Arabic, Japanese, Chinese, and Korean. Let’s take a closer look at why that is.
Arabic is a hard language to learn for native English speakers because it is just so different from English or any other European language. English has a high lexical similarity with many European languages, which can make learning a language like Spanish fast for an English speaker. Arabic, however, has very few words that are similar to English words.
Japanese and Chinese are really hard to learn for English speakers because you have to know thousands of characters just to read and write at a basic level.
Also, Chinese is even harder to speak because it is a tonal language, meaning that the tone in which you say a word changes its meaning. This is a concept that’s hard to grasp for English speakers.
Korean is hard for English speakers because its written form uses many Chinese characters. Speaking it is difficult as well because its sentence structure, syntax, and verb conjugations are so unique.
All this is not to say that you can’t learn one of the hardest languages for English speakers, it just means that it is probably going to require a lot more time and dedication than learning one of the easier ones.
You already know that Spanish, French, Portuguese, and Italian are some of the easiest languages for English speakers to learn as a second language. Other non-Romance languages that can be good choices include:
There are also plenty of intermediate-difficulty languages for English speakers. Here are a few examples:
Well, now you know a bit more about how to learn a language fast, even from the comfort of your living room or bedroom by watching foreign TV and movies on Lingopie! With the right combination of active studying, language exposure, and time, you can become conversationally fluent in any new language.