"The Foreign Service Institute of the Department (FSI) of State has compiled approximate learning expectations for a number of languages based on the length of time it takes to achieve Speaking 3: General Professional Proficiency in Speaking (S3) and Reading 3: General Professional Proficiency in Reading (R3). The list is limited to languages taught at the Foreign Service Institute.
It must be kept in mind that that students at FSI are almost 40 years old, are native speakers of English. and have a good aptitude for formal language study, plus knowledge of several other foreign languages. They study in small classes of no more than 6. Their schedule calls for 25 hours of class per week with 3-4 hours per day of directed self-study.
Category I: Languages closely related to English
23-24 weeks (575-600 class hours)
Category II: Languages with significant linguistic
and/or cultural differences from English
44 weeks (1100 class hours)
Persian (Dari, Farsi, Tajik)
Category III: Languages which are exceptionally difficult for native English speakers
88 weeks (second year of study in-country)
(2200 class hours)
German 30 weeks (750 class hours)
Indonesian, Malaysian, Swahili 36 weeks (900 class hours)
- Languages preceded by asterisks are typically somewhat more difficult for native English speakers to learn than other languages in the same category.
Duration of language instruction in US colleges and universities
Compare these figures to the average number of class hours per year in a college language course. A typical college year is 9 months, or 36 weeks. A typical language course is 3-5 hours a week, or 108-180 hours per year plus preparation outside of class. It’s no wonder that students who start a foreign language from scratch in college, rarely achieve higher levels of proficiency. Unless they have done significant language work in high school, they will need to supplement their college program with intensive summer schools and study abroad in order to achieve a high level of proficiency.
The inevitable conclusion is that one must begin the study of a foreign language as early as possible and pursue it for many years in order to achieve higher levels of proficiency."
Or unless they learn more efficiently and effectively using LingQ!