Language Learning - Let´s Do the Math!

Hey there,

I often hear people say “I´ve studied [insert language] for 6 years in school and I can´t speak it at all” and, most of the time, they use that statement as their basis for saying that Language XYZ is impossible to learn, that they do not have “the language gene” or something like that.

Saying that may seem to make sense, but IMHO it does not. Let´s do the math…

A native speaker at the age of 18 has spend approximately 100,000 hours speaking, writing, listening to or thinking in their native language. 150,000 hours if you count sleeping. (24x365x18)

I had 3 hours of english lessons a week, plus 1 hour of homework (I guess) for 8 years. That´s 1700 hours. (0.5714something x365x8)

Just look at these numbers, seriously, look at them!^^
Does it really make sense to say that “children are better at language learning”? Isn´t it a miracle to speak at least some xyz-lish after putting so little effort into it?

I´d love to hear what you think about all that^^

Greetings, Paule89

Yes, you are right: we just can’t imagine how much time the native speaker child exposures to the language- it’s enormous time!
THat’s why I can only laugh when somebody recommends to study a foreign language in this way: we’ll never have so much time!..
But we can step by step study any language from listening, reading, writing and looking up some basic grammar rules.

Yeah, I´d estimate that 10,000 hours (15 months of time investment) should be enough to speak at a pretty high level. After all, that´s 48 years of high school classes^^

I´ve studied french for approximately 1000 hours (3 hours a day for one year) and I can already have interesting conversations :slight_smile:

PS: According to your lingQ-profile, you´ve listened to german for 200 hours and read 2 million words - respect :slight_smile:

Congratulations on already being able to have interesting conversations in French.

[Cool, thanks for editing Paule - I did in fact wonder if it was some sort of European system]

[ Well, I have to edit, too; since …]

@Julz 611

I didn´t think about when I wrote the article, sorry^^ I accidentally used the german system.

I´ve edited my posts, hopefully they´re more comprehensible now.

1 Like

@Trois - Thanks for that - it will be interesting to see the difference.

@Paul - Remind me not to study German maths (just kidding).
Wow, you studied French 3 hrs a day for a year? That’s really good commitment:)

Thanks :slight_smile:
Calling what I did “studying” might not be the best way to describe what I did though. Most of the time I was just playing video games, listening to audio books or music, watching movies et cetera. I don´t think that it´s possible to get the necessary amount of exposure without focusing on having fun^^