How long did you take to learn your first foreign language?

How long did you take to learn your first foreign language to a fluent level? and how was your method?

Like everyone else in Norway, I started learning my second language, English when I was six years old. In the beginning all I did was learn the simple words and phrases from my school books. It wasn’t until I was about 13 that I actually gained some interest in the language. I played a lot of video games, so I was exposed rather early. I wanted to understand what they were saying and what was written, and so naturally I started to understand more and more. I payed more attention in class, and volunteered more when it came to reading out loud. At home, I would read books, and magazines, watch movies, TV shows, surf the web, and so on and so forth. It just kind of snowballed like that until I got good. I guess when I was 16, I was at a fluent conversational level. I’m 20 now, and my English proficiency is as good as it has ever been.


It depends on your time spending for your foreign language.
If you spend 2-3 hours a day, you can reach a fluent level in 6 months.
If you spend only 20 minutes a day or 2 hours 1-2 times a week, you need 2-3 years.
BUT: if you reached the fluent level and then stop learning, you lose your fluency in several years.
When I was 5, I could speak fluently Polish and German because my grandfather was from Poland and my gramndmother was from Germany. But since my grandfather died I have never really spoken Polish. And now I can understand 70% of Polish, but I can’t speak. And if I try to speak Polish, I make a lot of mistakes and mix up some Polish words with Russian or German words.
That’s why if you would like to maintain your fluency, you have to continue reading and speaking your target language for your whole life.


I learned Dutch (my stat isn’t correct yet, as I’m new here, and I’d rather learn a new language than give an accurate assessment of my Dutch skill) over the course of, I’d say, 4-5 years of living in the Netherlands. First, I took an obligatory course in Dutch that lasted for a year, but it didn’t really click until I watched a Spongebob Squarepants marathon. See, the Dutch just subtitle everything on TV… except for cartoons and kid shows. Thus, if I wanted to understand anything about the cartoon, I had to really pay attention, and it was simple enough to follow, so I rapidly transitioned from “school room language” to practical language over the course of 8 hours. After that, it was just practice, practice, practice.

My greatest obstacle to learning Dutch is the fact that the Dutch will instantly switch into English the moment they hear a hint of a foreign accent in your speech. They’re eager to show off how good they are in English, and they’re very natural in it. I’ve entered a room, seen people switch to English to talk to me, left the room and returned later to find them still speaking to each other in English, despite the fact that everyone in the room speaks Dutch as their native language.

(That also discourages me from learning. People ask me why I don’t practice more, but I find little point when literally everyone speaks my language so well. Spanish and Polish, on the other hand…)


Your post made me think about my Dutch in-laws… they emigrated to Australia in the 60s. My father in law, whom I remember fondly, had a very thick accent, and I always had trouble understanding him (even though he’d lived in Australia for 50 years!) His accent was so thick that even his swear words sounded comical, so I wasn’t offended. He had trouble writing English, too. I remember his Dutch cronies sounded the same.

I’d always assumed it was because of their generation. However, when my husband’s uncle and cousins visited us a few years back, I was flabbergasted at their level of English! I couldn’t believe how fluent and good his brother’s pronunciation especially was! Here were two brothers living opposite sides of the world, yet the one living in Holland spoke better English than the same generation who’d emigrated to Australia!

I’m not there yet but I’m on my way though. By the way, I’ve been doing the same things you did (movies, TV shows and so on).
It has worked for you and it’s been working for me.
I hope to get as fluent as you seem to be!

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I totally agree with the losing fluency thing but I don’t think it’s possible to learn a language in 6 months… I mean, not to a really fluent conversational level. Anyway, just my opinion… have you learned any language within 6 months?

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I didn’t know they were that good in English lol
It must have been really tough for you, since all we want when we go on an exchange program is immersion in the target language, right? I’d be pissed off…

You said they just subtitle everything on TV, that’s probably the reason their English is so good!

Such a cool story…
I just think the old generation just settled down and that should not happen when it comes to learning a language.
the new generation is more bold, I guess…

Hi ! =))) Surely agree with you! =))) Impossible, to learn any foreign language to a legit fluent level, unless one has no idea what LEGIT fluency is ! :wink:

Besides, depending on one’s personal existing language background, some langugages may have rather exotic linguistic phenomena they are based upon, hence, rather short-sighted to resolutely determine any time frame for mastering just any language at all ! :wink:

Depends on too many aspects to be determined THAT strictly! :wink:

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Well, 3 hours per day of uninterrupted studying and having an aptitude for memory retention, I would say 6 months doesn’t sound unreasonable perhaps to at least become proficient. Maybe not “fluent”, but certainly proficient.


They really are! =))) I was also very much surprised when I had to face it being in the Netherlands ! :wink:

And then a British friend of mine told me, “Didn’t you know? :wink: Dutch are the best in English throughout the whole Europe! And it’s no wonder! Just look at the map, they are the closest to us!” =))

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Who’s the second best in your opinion?

'to brigada! :wink: It may seem strange, but the British know, the second best are … French! =))) Which is no wonder, as huge lot of words in English are of French origin! =))) Hence, the explanation of seemingly strange spelling in English! =))) It’s mostly French spelling, actually ! =))

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Hi ! =))) No doubt! =))) Odds are, proficiency is quite attainable, but probably not fluency, as, in my opinion, the very notion of ‘fluency’ is quite a different level of mastering a language! :wink:

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I couldn’t agree more with both of you.
It’s definitely possible to reach a proficient level in 6 months (Since I did), but starting from scratch and becoming fluent (speaking as effortlessly as your mother tongue) is quite a challenge, isn’t it? (without living abroad, of course)

It surely is! =))) As most of the phrases have to become just subconscious! :wink: Besides, as the phonetic set most probably differs from the native language, it’s not that easy to pronounce the sequence of rather unusual sounds, but without this skill it’s hard to speak of any notion of fluency! :wink:


You’re making me blush! But definitely hang in there! Once you start understanding more, and more, and you’re having fun, you don’t count the hours anymore. Good luck with your studies!

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'bout 36 years now and still on the road.

I’m going to go with 6 months, I know two examples of people moving to France from the UK, both of them had no French, apart from what they had learned in school, which was probably little. Both of them were able to hold a conversation and to read and write within 6-8 months. Its do able, but just not everyone has the time, energy or correct learning strategy to do it.