How Long Does it Take to Learn a New Language?
The question of how long it takes to learn a language is not asked as frequently as the question, Can I really learn to speak a language? Some people would be very glad if they could say even a few phrases in a foreign language with a passable accent. Others mainly want to read great works of literature. And still others may aspire to speak and write another language as fluently as their mother tongue.
Before travel abroad became common, foreign languages were associated in this country with educated people and immigrants. The former were often interested only in reading and writing a particular language, while the latter could speak their native language, but had little occasion to read or write it after coming to the United States. Some educated people resembled the upper class British gentlemen of the nineteenth century, who typically "knew" French, but were disinclined to imitate the "peculiar" sounds a Frenchman makes when speaking.
In today’s world, many people who study a foreign language chiefly desire to speak it. It is important, therefore, to estimate how well a person can expect to speak a language after studying it for a certain number of hours — and conversely, how many hours it may take him to reach the fluency he has in mind. Several estimates follow on how long it takes to achieve various sorts of mastery, based on FSI data, and personal research.