How Long Does It Take To Learn Spanish?
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The number one question, by far, that we receive at BaseLang HQ is: how long does it take to learn Spanish?
(spoiler alert: there’s no exact answer, but we’ll tell you the most important factors that determine this.)
Before we continue, I would like to remind you that there are officially 21 Spanish speaking countries in the world, and approximately 437 million Spanish speakers worldwide, making Spanish the 2nd most spoken language in the world.
The good news is that Español is widely recognized as one of the easiest languages to learn for English speakers.
Why is this?
Both Spanish and English share Latin roots, which means that there are tons of similarities. For example, once you discover Spanish cognates, you’ll see that there are hundreds of Spanish words you already know.
Anyway, we’re not here to convince you about the benefits of learning Spanish (but if you need a little nudge, then check out seven reasons to start learning Spanish).
So, how long does it take to learn Spanish?
At BaseLang we’ve managed to teach thousands of students Spanish, and in our experience, there are five important factors that will decide how quickly you master Spanish.
1. How Many Hours Can You Dedicate To Spanish?
This is by far the most important factor in learning Spanish.
Like learning any other skill, the more time you dedicate to learning Spanish, the faster you will progress.
Many students make the mistake of viewing time spent learning a language in weeks or months, but we prefer to view it in hours.
For example, if somebody tells you that they were able to go from beginner to conversational Spanish in one month, it probably sounds like an incredible achievement to you. But, if you later find out that this person took classes with experienced tutors for five hours a day, with a little independent study thrown in, then that equals more than 150 hours in that month, which sounds less impressive.
In the past, maybe you studied five minutes a day. If you were consistent enough to enough to do it every day for one year (which is highly unlikely), then that would still only equal 30 hours.
So even though you feel like you’ve been studying Spanish for one year and are frustrated with your lack of progress, you’ve only actually studied 30 hours – which isn’t enough to learn any language.
The point is that you should start thinking in terms of how many hours you can dedicate to learning Spanish, and once you do that, be consistent.
Bulk studying for one month might work in the short-term, but eventually you’ll forget what you learned if you’re not maintaining it (ie. using it in the real world with native friends, or with teachers etc).
(Sidenote: we shot a mini-documentary with a student who went from beginner to conversational in one month by taking BaseLang classes for 4hrs/day. Watch here)
2. Have You Already Learned A Different Language?
You’ve probably heard this old cliche before….
Once you learn a second language, it becomes easier to learn a third, fourth, and so on.
There are two reasons why this is true.
The first reason is due to the similarity between certain languages.
Since I began learning Spanish, I found myself in a couple of situations where I was able to speak Spanish to communicate with Italian people who didn’t speak a word of English or Spanish.
And likewise, I was able to understand some of their Italian.
That’s because Italian is a romantic language, along with Spanish, French and Portuguese.
This means that once you have a background in one of these languages, you’ll notice similar vocab, grammar structures and pronunciation when you go to learn a different one.
To prove this point, let’s compare the similarities of the phrase “I love you” in the romantic languages:
- Te amo (Spanish)
- Ti amo (Italian)
- Je t’aime (French)
- Te amo (Portuguese)
The second reason why already knowing a second language will be a big help, is simply, down to the past experience of learning a new language.
Learning Spanish (or any language) is a skill.
Which means that once you have experience in studying complex grammar, memorizing vocab, mimicking pronunciation and in general, dealing with the ups and downs that come with learning a new language, then the process will be much more familiar and less daunting the second or third time around.
3. Exposure to Spanish
As somebody living in Colombia, I can tell you that moving to a Spanish speaking country is not a magic pill for becoming fluent in Spanish.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a big advantage.
But how many people do you know who moved to a Spanish-speaking country, yet still they speak basic, broken Spanish?
It’s more common than you’d think.
From my experience, it’s easily to “avoid” Spanish and get by with the bare minimum.
I know many expats living here in Colombia whose only friends are fellow expats and whose day-to-day routine includes watching Netflix in English, listening to English music, reading their favorite news websites – just as they do in their home country.
The point I’m getting to is that exposing yourself to Spanish has to be a conscious decision.
And fortunately, these days it’s possible to do that without moving to a Spanish speaking country. There’s no reason why you can’t create a Spanish environment from your home so that you are surrounded by Spanish every day.
For you, this could mean, listening to a Spanish podcast on your commute, reading a Spanish news article on your lunch break, studying vocab flashcards while sitting on the toilet for 10 minutes, watching an episode of “La Casa De Papel” on Netflix when you get home from work, scheduling a private online Spanish class in the evening.
You get the idea.
Anyone who can make Spanish part of their daily ritual, and thus be exposed to more Spanish will progress much faster than the person who studies Spanish in isolation.
Although this might sound like a blatantly obvious point, it’s something that is so often a deciding factor for people who successfully learn a language or not.
In fact, it’s something that is needed when learning any new skill.
For you it might have been starting the gym, learning how to play guitar, starting a new online course – or even language learning.
We can all relate to the moment when we start learning a new skill and enthusiasm is at an all-time high, but then it tends to tail off after a couple of weeks due to lack of progress or boredom.
The same thing can happen when learning a new language, and so it’s important that you remember yourself why you decided to learn Spanish, and that this is a process, so there will be ups and downs along the way.
To keep BaseLang students motivated, we recently introduced a new progress tracker feature so that each student can visualize the number of many hours they spent in classes, the number of lessons completed, and in general, the progress they are making.
Additionally, we encourage students to take a mix of lesson and conversational classes so that they don’t become fatigued by only focusing on the theory.
After all, learning Spanish should be fun.
5. Where Are You Learning From
And finally, where (and who) are you learning from?
- Are you learning from a real human ie. classes with teachers, speaking with natives?
- Are you learning independently ie. grammar books, online apps, movies, music etc?
I could probably finish this point here, and I’m confident that you’d guess correctly which method typically produces the quickest results.
Of course, we’re talking about learning from a human.
I’m not saying that you can’t learn Spanish on your own – in fact, it’s easier now than it ever was due to the plethora of resources available online.
But learning from a human, or more specifically a teacher will speed things up enormously.
I learned this the hard way (as most people do) when I arrived in Colombia having spent the previous three months listening to audio CDs, acing DuoLingo (I even had the fluency badge), and any other free online resource that I could get my hands on.
But then I arrived, had my first interaction with a native speaker, and couldn’t understand a single thing.
In hindsight, the problem was obvious. I had never practiced speaking Spanish with another human, and so understanding Spanish was impossible. If you want to be able to speak Spanish with real people, you have to practice speaking Spanish with real people.
Eventually, after starting one-on-one classes, my Spanish shot through the roof and I was conversational in no time.
Again, I’m not saying that it’s impossible to learn on your own, but having the assistance of a native speaker, preferably a teacher, will play a massive factor in how fast you learn Spanish.
Fluency Calculator: How Many Hours Do You Need?
Ok, so now you know the five most important factors that determine how quickly you learn Spanish.
Since we get a lot of questions with students asking exactly how long it will take to get to a certain level with BaseLang, we decided to create our own fluency calculator.
Before continuing, we must stress that this is an estimation.
And so while it’s not a guarantee (read our guarantee here), our estimations are based on experience teaching Spanish to hundreds of BaseLang students
Of course, results will vary for many reasons – including the factors we just covered.
We define conversational as being able to effectively have complete conversations in social settings, when talking about typical topics and your interests. It’s not always easy, but most things you don’t have too much difficulty with. While advanced students will also benefit from BaseLang, beginners who want to become conversational will see the fastest progress, by far. We estimate roughly 120 hours for someone with no experience to get to this level using our methods.*
We define fluency as being able to effectively have complete conversations with similar comfort and ease as one’s native language in social settings, when talking about a wider range of typical topics and your interests. Different students will need a higher or lower level depending on their interests and what they have conversations about, and thus this is a blurry, approximate level. We estimate roughly 350 hours for someone with no experience to get to this level using our methods.*
What’s your current level?
How much time will you spend per day?
Online tutor $15/hour$450 $321 savings /mo
In-person tutor $50/hour$1,500 $1,371 savings /mo
Online tutor $15/hour$1,575 $1,059 total savings
In-person tutor $50/hour$5,250 $4,734 total savings
*This is an estimation based on our experience teaching Spanish and not a guarantee (read our guarantee here). Results may vary for many reasons. While we believe our methods to be the most efficient and cost effective available, BaseLang is a tool and results depend directly on the effort and time spent by the student.
If you’re serious about learning Spanish, then subscribe to BaseLang today and receive unlimited one-on-one online classes with tutors.