How many hours does it take to learn Spanish?

Are you planning to start studying Spanish or have you been studying Spanish for a couple of months already? Either way, you are probably asking yourself how many hours does it take to learn Spanish Fluently?

After doing big research and reading a lot of different sources, I have found a satisfying answer for myself.

By choosing the most efficient ways to learn Spanish and dedicating at least 1 hour a day for active learning it is possible to achieve conversational fluency in 8-12 months, which translates it roughly to 250-350 hours. 

Not bad, ah? But…there is a trick. This formula doesn’t always work the same in different situations. It is possible to make it work though, by the end of this article, you will know how.

The article is divided into several sections, each of them helped me to find the right answer to this question.

  • What does fluency in Spanish mean?
  • What are the factors that can influence how long it takes to learn the Spanish language?
  • How many hours does it take to learn Spanish according to Scientific research?
  • What is a realistic time that will help you reach your goal?

What does fluency in Spanish mean?

What does it mean for you to be fluent in Spanish?  

Everyone has his understanding of what fluency means, but generally, we can divide it into two sections: 

  • Native speaker fluency
  • Conversational fluency

The main difference is that with “native speaker” fluency you can have a conversation with a native speaker for 2 hours and he wouldn’t understand that you didn’t learn the language from birth. This level will take a long time so we will not concentrate on it in this article. 

We will review how to get to a level of conversational fluency, which is much more achievable and that’s what most of the people are looking for.

When you achieve conversational fluency you will be able to have a one to one conversation at a normal speaking pace with a native speaker, understanding 90% of what you hear and being easily understood by a person you are talking with. 

Some technical subjects might be difficult, but you will still get an idea of what is the topic is about. You will be able to understand movies in Spanish without subtitles in your language. 

Conversational fluency will give you more confidence to travel to Spanish speaking countries and will help you to understand and explore more interesting cultural facts about Spanish speaking countries.

What are the factors that can influence how long it takes to learn the Spanish language?

It is extremely difficult to calculate the precise formula that would give you the answer to the question: “how many hours does it take to learn Spanish?”. Everyone learns at their own pace and uses their methods to learn Spanish. 

There are several factors that I would like to outline that influence language learning. 

Age. The younger you are the easier it will be to learn the language. If you compare the 70y.o. student and 10 y.o student the results will be different. 

Place. If you are living in a Spanish Speaking country then it will be much faster and easier to learn. 

Other languages. According to recent scientific research, it was proven that students that already know at least two languages find it much easier to learn a third language. Especially if the language is close to Spanish, like for example, Italian or French. 

Methods to learn Spanish. This plays a crucial role in the process of learning Spanish. Are you taking group classes or individual classes? Do you only learn via apps or other online methods? That makes a huge difference. 

Attitude and Motivation. It’s no secret that a positive attitude and staying motivated play a very big role in how fast can you learn the Spanish Language. There are even official scientific studies that examined and proved that motivation plays a huge role in language learning. 

There are probably other factors that affect Spanish language learning, but these are the once that I consider the most important. 

How many hours does it take to learn Spanish according to Scientific research?

According to the US Department of State, it takes 600 classroom classes to achieve fluency in Spanish. Not even taking into account the independent studies that they suggest at an approximate ratio of 1:1 to classroom studies. Which makes it 1200 hours. 

This sounds like a lot and can easily demotivate and discourage some beginners from wanting to learn Spanish in the first place. One of the most important things is to start learning Spanish from a positive and confident mindset. 

Why do these numbers not always apply to reality? 

The research of the US Department of State on how many hours does it take to learn Spanish is based on classroom hours, which are the least effective methods to learn a language. The typical classroom would have 20-30 students and one teacher, where during 3 hours of class each student will have a maximum of 10 minutes of speaking practice. Also, in the classroom students might just passively listen to a lecturer not engaging in active learning. 

With this pace, it’s quite probable that you need 600 hours to learn Spanish, but if you had a chance to engage to a 1 to 1 speaking practice with a conversational partner or your Spanish teacher for at least 30 min of each hour you would increase the efficiency at least 15 times. 

People learn much faster during active learning, rather than passive listening. 

In other words, by concentrating on the most efficient ways to learn Spanish you will learn Spanish in a much shorter time. 

What is a realistic time that will help you reach your goal?

No scientific data can determine how long it will take you to start speaking fluently. It depends on you and your dedication to the learning process. 

To determine how fast you can learn Spanish you need to decide how much time per day you are willing to spend practicing Spanish. An important part is a balance between intensity and consistency. 

For example, if you enroll for a 4-week course 5 hours a day in a Spanish speaking country and become almost fluent during this course. What happens when you get back to your normal life? Without regular practicing, you will forget what you learned very quickly because your memory follows a decay curve, and it needs constant practice to keep the information. 

On the other hand, if you practice every day 5-10 minutes a day with some language app and maybe once in few weeks take an online or offline lesson with a teacher you will end up learning Spanish for years. 

In the modern year, most people don’t have too much of free time. They are busy with work, school, family or other social obligations that is why it is very important to find the perfect balance between the intensity and consistency in a learning process. 

You can set a realistic time that will help you reach your goal. 

If you dedicate 1 hour a day, you should be able to achieve speaking fluency in about 9 -12 months, which makes it roughly 250-350 hours spent on studying Spanish. 

Create easy and efficient study schedule

It doesn’t mean that every day you will have to seat 1 hour in front of the grammar book. You can combine different efficient ways to learn Spanish. 

Monday: 1 Hour Lesson with a teacher via Skype (it also saves your commuting time if you have a lesson from home)

Tuesday: 30-minute homework, 30 min listening to Spanish radio or podcast while you walk, exercise or drive. (Can be done at any point in the day)

Wednesday: Spend 30 minutes to Learn some new vocabulary creating sentences from the new words that you just learned. Watch a movie or series in Spanish with Spanish subtitles after work. 

Thursday: 1-hour lesson with your Skype teacher. This is also a great way to practice Spanish speaking

Friday: 30 min homework, 30 min reading some easy Spanish learning books or short stories for beginners

Saturday and Sunday: read novels, watch youtube videos, talk with conversation partners or do whatever you find interesting in Spanish. 

With this schedule, you will only have 30-40% of actively focused studying and the rest will be a fun casual exposure time. 

During this casual exposure time, you might think it is not proper studying but it is an absolute key to how to learn Spanish fast. Even if you don’t notice it yet, you are being immersed in Spanish by this method, and your brain is picking up Spanish more than you think. 

So how long does it take to learn Spanish fluently? It definitely won’t happen overnight, but learning language is not rocket science and it is easily achievable with the right attitude. Keep it fun and balanced and you will soon acquire a new skill that might literally change your life. A different language is a different vision of life. 

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