When you first start learning a language, it’s a really exciting experience. You immediately start envisioning yourself using that language, and being completely proficient with it.
Those dreams are met with reality when you soon realize how difficult it is to learn a language. Learning a language is more difficult than many people assume.
If you’re not careful, you could be three months into learning a language wanting to tear your hair out – all the new vocabulary and grammar rules can be very overwhelming and frustrating. When you get to that point, it seems like you will never fully master the language.
Well, I hate to burst your bubble, but you never really will fully master a language. And it has nothing to do with you or your skills. It really just has to do with language itself. Language is ever changing, so the English people were learning 50 years ago is much different than the English you’re learning now. By the time you learn one new vocabulary term, there are many more to learn. In fact, each year there are more than 1,000 words added to the Oxford English dictionary. So no matter how long we’ve been learning a language, even if it’s our native tongue, we will always have areas to improve upon and to learn.
You will, however, be able to become fluent in the English language. To become fluent means that you are able to communicate an idea – whether it be written, or orally – without any major difficulties. So, how long will this take?
Because every person is different, the rate at which they learn English will vary as well. Every person has their own level of understanding, circumstances and their own motivation to learn. These variables all play a part of how quickly a person can learn another language. For example, reportedly, one woman living in England didn’t even know the alphabet but after 6 months of learning she was apparently able to communicate with native English speakers. Another woman living in China says it took her three years to become fluent in the English language. No doubt both women were smart ladies and very determined to learn the language, so why did it take one so much longer than the other?
Well, for one thing, one woman was already living in an English speaking country whereas the other was not. Your environment and surroundings can play a huge part in how quickly you learn a language. If you’re constantly surrounded and immersed in the English language, you’re going to pick it up rather quickly. It is likely that her children were also learning English, and picking up on common English terms. This would benefited her as well. However, the other woman did not have any other English exposure except for what she was learning for herself. Therefore it would be difficult for her to remember, apply and use the English she was learning. She also admits that she was busy with other things and had very little time to focus.
So what does this teach us? Well, we are all very different. So the speed at which we learn a language will all be very different. This means that we shouldn’t compare ourselves to each other, or give ourselves unreasonable expectations. There is no “deadline” to learn English, so there is no need to feel like you are behind or should know more than you do.
So, unfortunately, no teacher can give you a definite answer as to how long it will take to learn English. But the more you put into it, the more you will get. So, the more you read, write, speak and practice English, the more fluent you’ll become.
It may seem like you will be learning English forever, and in a sense you will, but trust me when I say once you reach that level of fluency, it gets a lot easier. Just don’t give up and very soon, one day, you’ll get there.
For those of you who have learned English, how long did it take you to become fluent? Why do you think that was the case?