"Mastering a language does take time." - Benny

By the way, that isn’t supposed to be sarcasm or anything. It is genuine curiosity.

“FSI research indicates that it takes 480 hours to reach basic fluency in group 1 languages, and 720 hours for group 2-4 languages.” Quote from http://bit.ly/b0Z79s.

480 or 720 hours of doing what exactly, do they specify?

I thought that the FSI hours are contact hours with your class and teacher. (FSI is a full-time immersion program, with about 4 hours a day of class, at least for Russian.)

I once took a Russian class in an adult evening language school, and one of our teachers had a day job at FSI. Wow, was she a good teacher! I could really see how the FSI students are able to learn so quickly.

She did a number of things that I have never seen any other teacher do. For example, she started each lesson by having the students (4 of us) speak with one another. She listened closely. Then, when she spoke to us in Russian, the vocabulary that she used was the same vocabulary that we had used. So I could understand her! The grammar lesson for the day would be based on the mistakes that we were making when we spoke. So instead of working our way through a textbook, she just taught us what we didn’t know. Imagine, a teacher teaching you what you don’t know. It seems so obvious, but none of the other teachers taught this way.

Another thing was that each individual topic was taught in an optimized way. By topic, I mean asking and giving directions, answering the telephone, listening to a weather report, and so forth. FSI assumes that their teachers will do a massive amount of work to teach. And they get really good results.

Again, language learning is personal.

To me, the only “contact hours” that matter are the contact hours with the language. I am not that interested in sitting in a classroom, nor in talking to other learners in the language I am learning, at least not until we are quite proficient in the language.

I understand that other people prefer going to class. I am quite convinced, however, that the hours spent at LingQ type studying, listening, reading, reviewing words and phrases, writing and speaking with tutors, are at least equal in value to hours spent in classrooms.

James, I tried to explain what I thought fluency, unqualified, meant in my earlier post.

"I think fluency means the ability to speak comfortably on a wide variety of subjects, and to understand in just about all normal areas of discussion, to understand the radio, to be able to read books, and to never be lost in the language.

If I say I am fluent in a language, and do not qualify that, in my mind this assumes a very high level of proficiency, essentially effortless, with the odd mistake or vocabulary gap. "

If you read the blog post you quoted, you will see that while I thought 2-3 months of 10 HOURS A DAY!! would lead to “basic fluency”, therefore a qualified or lesser level of fluency, I thought that full fluency, as described above, would require twice as much time, all based on 10 HOURS A DAY!!. If we spend less time it will take longer.

None of this is scientific. If we have one hour a day to spend, not in the country where the language is spoken, following an approach like LingQ’s, then I think that fluency in these languages can take up to ten times as long, depending on other factors. The basic or lower level conversational fluency can come earlier, but full fluency will only come much later.

If we can build up our language potential at LingQ say over a period of 6 months to a year, and then go to the country where the language is spoken for a month or two, then we can really speed things up. But as I say, none of this is scientific.

"Is ten hours a day reasonable? It could be. Here is a sample day.

8-12: Alternate listening, reading and vocabulary review using LingQ, Anki or some other system.
12-2: rest, exercise, lunch, while listening to the language.
2-3: grammar review
3-4: write
4-5: talk via skype or with locals if in the country
5-7: rest
7-10: relaxation in the language, movies, songs, or going out with friends in the language. depending on availability. "

Who would be able to put this amount of time in studying a language? It is wishful thinking to expect someone to achieve that! I don’t want it to be detrimental to my family life; I’m not supposed to waste my time at work this way (it’s my boss’s viewpoint of course!); I need 6 hours a day or a night, to be more precise, for sleeping. I’ll put the necessary time (I’m not in a hurry) to brush with a “so called” proficiency in English, so I’ll hold to my current schedule :slight_smile:

I agree that this is not reasonable for most people. It is , however, close to what I did in Hong Kong over 40 years ago, when studying Mandarin, except for the fact that I could not surround myself with Mandarin since everyone around me spoke Cantonese or English.

I would not mind attempting something like this for a new language for a month or two. Definitely not recommended for a person working full time and who has family and a social life.

I am pretty sure that after my 3 year mental workout with Chinese, when I go back to a new romance language, say Portugese, I would reach fluency in less than three months and have a girl friend in four, maybe even two of them. I might even start a website and sell an ebook, can’t yet think of a catchy name though…

Friedemann, I know you are still upset when Steve announced that a certain Irish blogger was his nemesis instead of you. Please get over it…

But www.fluentin3monthswithagirlfriend.com does sound quite attractive. Go for it!

I wonder how FSI teachers do it? Do they have some sort of checklist of grammar errors, that they can fill in for each student while monitoring their conversation? How do they keep track of the vocabulary used? It sounds like an excellent technique if one could only master it.

I should think that FSI teachers are

  1. well aware of the most common errors made by speakers of other languages, ie typically spanish, German, French, Polish, Russian etc errors. I used to have a book (and for the life of me I cannot remember either its title or its author) which listed these typical errors.

  2. very good listeners with a corresponding good memory.

  3. are familiar with the likely range of vocab they’d hear in a class.

(No doubt, you are already doing the same!)

What does FSI stand for? Does it stand for Fast Study Institute?

I think it is foreign service institute.

Fastidious study-induced insonmia.

Edwin said: “Friedemann, I know you are still upset when Steve announced that a certain Irish blogger was his nemesis instead of you. Please get over it…”

I doubt whether Friedemann is TOO upset by this - not least because it isn’t 100% clear whether Steve actually understands what a “nemesis” is.

(There is no way that Benny is the “nemesis” of anyone. He is merely a little schnuk in the blogosphere…)

From Wikipedia


In modern English, “nemesis” has become a term for an enemy or archenemy, especially one that is similar to oneself but opposite in some critical way. For example, the fictional Professor Moriarty is a brilliant, unconventional, manipulative criminal, who is frequently described as the nemesis of Sherlock Holmes, a brilliant, unconventional, and manipulative detective.

I think that Friedemann and I and others are allowed a little poetic license in the different ways we choose to swagger and carry on here.

"Friedemann, I know you are still upset when Steve announced that a certain Irish blogger was his nemesis instead of you. Please get over it… "

Edwin, believe it or not, I just tried to be funny.

and Edwin of course.

and now on a more serious note:

A question for lastsafari. On your profile you say " I have tried for several years to learn Russian - with classes, tutors, study groups, etc. I had some success, but very little. So I am happy to be using Lingq now, and to try to learn in a different way." Have you had success with LingQ?

@Friedemann: I was trying to be funny too, except for the domain part.

Please, seriously, go for it! We will rally people here to buy your overpriced e-books.