Discussion: Time to C1/C2 for 3rd, 4th, 5th languages

FSI is often mentioned for time required to learn x language.
European languages being the eastiest then practically every other language in the medium category and the hardest being all the eastern asain languages that use characters and arabic.

The question is how much faster in regards to percentage is it for someone with c2 spanish to learn french or italian or portugese etc to a c2 level? How much time reduction does this give to those that have done something like this? I have often heard a 50% discount on languages in the same family, Does this sound right?
Or any language family russian> ukranian 50% discount?
japanese to korean 50% discount?
Mandarin> to vietnamese 50% discount?
Any language and their family can be brought up.
The percentages will vary depending how different the languages are but im curious about everyone’s opinion and the kinds of numbers that will be brought up.


It really does depend upon the language set, and possibly also the individual involved.

I know from experience that it only took a Dutchman three weeks to acquire Swedish. That’s correct! It literally took him three (3) weeks.

Do I think that’s the case for all Dutch speakers?
Absolutely not!

Would I say it generally takes less time for Dutch speakers to acquire Swedish than Brits?
Absolutely no doubt about it!

Please note: English, Dutch and Swedish are all Germanic languages.


If this dutchman wanted to learn german to c1 what would be the estimated time if he is an average joe? The Language family concept and its application to learning languages is extremly interesting.

with c2 spanish to learn french or italian or portugese etc to a c2 level?

If you master italian, it will be faster for you to get a C1 Spanish or French (I agree with 50% discount). If we are talking about a C2, that’s a bit different story because it is supposed you should make few mistakes (especially in the writing) and learn a lot of non-common words.
If are Italian, it will way easier for you to master Spanish (or vice versa) because they are phonetic languages. Writing in French is far more difficult as French is a non phonetic language, full of exceptions related to spelling.
In my humble opinion, the main point it: Why do you want a C1/C2 in that languages? Motivation is very important for a C1/C2 level as you should fine-tune your language and focus on tiny mistakes more than communication itself.
Talking about B2, I agree with the 50% discount (always taking into account the small differences related to the writing skill) as the main focus is still communication.

1 Like

The thought occurred to me that there is a huge discount when you learn languages of the same family but there is also the problem that they become less useful than another language from another language family. For example if I have c2 spanish (hypothetical) getting c2 french is less useful than c2 russian. for example, because the whole slavic world kind of opens up, and a whole new type of content is available to me, but french content is often translated into spanish and vice versa. So french would be easier, but I already have c2 spanish, so I can just enjoy french stuff in spanish. Obviously if you know specific french people or want to go to a french speaking country that is different but most of the time russian or a language from a new family will be more difficult but a lot more useful and fun as well.

1 Like

I’d love to say that I got a big discount but I don’t think I actually got much.
First time around when I really had no clue what I was doing I think it took me to a year and a half to get to B2 early C1 (can’t say for sure C1/B2 but I was able to function fluently spoken and listening with a solid grasp of the grammar). I reckon it took about 6 months to get to B1 ish.

When I did French years later after I figure it out I think I got to B1/B2 after 6 months of effort.
Maybe 25% gain?

With Russian I think I got to B1 comprehension only after six months and I’m still between B1 and B2 at 10 months.

What I think you gain is confidence that you can do it. Which means you flounder less.

That said I think I could get to B1 comprehension in Portuguese in about 3 months.

1 Like

Only 25%? I know French is the odd one out of the romance languages because of its linguistic traits. But unless one loves French that just doesn’t seem like a lot. I know it’s not a type of hack but one would expect like 50% off or something of this nature. That Portuguese statement is what I was looking for lol. How long would it take you to speak, write, and the full package at b1 as well for Portuguese etc?

1 Like

Yeah that is exactly the problem. French has wierd pronunciation. The “linguistic traits” I dunno. Spanish grammar seems way more complicated than French. Since I already have Spanish grammar pretty much understood, French seems to me dumbed down somehow. Italian grammar seems slightly more complicated and archaic than Spanish but not so far apart that makes it difficult. Likewise Portuguese is super similar to Spanish grammar already.

Truth be told I could already understand portuguese and italian speakers if they spoke slowly. French not so much, so I essentially had to learn the sounds from scratch. I can’t speak to the reading and writing because I don’t care enough to find out. I suspect you get a really big bang for the buck in reading across all of the romance languages (except romanian of course because of all the slavic words).

When I say B1 I’m typically not talking the full package: specifically I’m talking listening.

That said, since both Italian and Portuguese aren’t ridiculously far from Spanish in pronunciation I suspect you’d get quite a good boost. Again French not so much. But… I can read French way better in LingQ than I can read Russian with much less effort.

Best guess: I reckon you could definitely get B1 listening comprehension from either Portuguese OR Italian if you already knew Spanish. It’s likely similar in that triad strictly from the listening perspective.

1 Like

This is good to hear! What originally caused this thought to arise was there was a chart for learning Japanese to N1 level with and without character knowledge, and the chart basically said if one knew all 2200 Chinese characters it would cut the time in half which is probably not true (idk) since the pronunciation is different in each east-asain language similar to cognates in French, port, Italian, and Spanish are said differently to varying levels of degree. So it’s good to hear others say this 50% discount is there. It would have been even better to hear that the discount was higher for some language combos like it appears to be with port and spanish haha.

Also I just listened to numbers 1-20 in each of the romance languages (probably a bad test) but Italian very similar, French only similarity is they start with the same letter but the vowels are like from a different planet in comparison. Portuguese is also very similiar to spanish. So french is in the 25% and port/italian are in the 50% range haha I can see why. Thank you for the info!

Indeed ! If your goal is to open up to new content, It would be much more interesting to reach a C1/C2 level in Russian or any Slavic language as most of their novels/culture are barely translated into English or Spanish. The same thing will happen when learning Latin at a C1 level. There are many nuances in Latin masterpieces that can be understood only if you know Latin. Carpe diem, for example, is usually translated as “seize the day” but a carpe has also the meaning of “pick up” and “take the whole” so this sentence means: “seize the day” but also “grab your day”.

1 Like

Credible estimates as to how long it takes to reach a certain level in a language are very difficult to make. Perhaps you’ll find this explanation on different levels of competence helpful https://www.olesentuition.co.uk/german-language-levels-a1-c2