How long will it take you to speak English well? How can you start out learning a handful of new phrases and words each day, and go on to learn to speak English fluently, confidently enough to call it your second language?

We hear this question all the time, from people who want to improve their English and also improve how they learn English.

Whilst there is no easy answer, we will give you a few crucial factors to think about when aiming for success in English.

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What are your objectives?

The first thing to consider is what you mean but "speaking" English, and what it means to "master" a language. This is a broad concept. For example, a student may wish to hone their casual conversation skills to chat with English speakers or master English fluently so they can communicate flawlessly

Your first question should be - what are my objectives here? Do I want to master business English for career opportunities, or do I want to pick up some slang and practice my listening skills so I can follow my favourite American TV shows? 

Once you know the answers to these questions, you are on your way to estimating the amount of time you need to invest. This depends on your current level of English and your goals.

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Dive into English learning, but set reasonable goals!
Set achievable objectives for yourself. (Source: Javier Muñoz)

Ensure you're setting yourself reasonable goals, keeping in mind that nobody will achieve fluency overnight. 

As soon as you hit an intermediate level, you can work on perfecting your skills. It goes without saying that to become bilingual, you must practice your English often and over a long time. "I want to be bilingual" is a good long-term goal, but in the short term, your first objectives should be picking up some vocabulary, casual conversation, and understanding simple English television shows. 

Measure success by setting yourself regular, achievable goals

Don't forget to...

Learn English online, and you're well on your way to striking up a conversation in English somewhere in the world.

Keep in mind, English spelling and vocabulary can very complicated, and there are lots of tricky grammar rules that may confuse a non-native speaker. These can make your English learning journey difficult.

Learning English takes time - don't give up!
Don't quit when things feel slow. (Source: Kenny Olowu)

On the plus side, native English speakers are everywhere! Plenty of people all over the world can speak conversational English, understand elementary English grammar and are often happy to speak English to tourists and visitors. This means there will nearly always be an opportunity to practice your English with strangers, wherever you are. 

Even with all these opportunities, you will need to invest a lot of time if you want to speak it fluently. In other words, you aren't going to learn English overnight. 

Knowing your starting level

People who want to learn English generally fall into two camps; those with zero English, and those who learnt a little English in school. People who have never learnt English before are generally few and far between as learning English is common in schools around the world. Nearly everyone has had exposure to English through American or British films and TV shows.

If you've has some exposure to English at school or in the media, take heart; you're not starting from scratch. 

However, even if you took English lessons at school, you may have forgotten a lot over the years. Everyone starts with a different background, and no two people will have the same English level. 

So, when answering the question "How long will it take me to learn English?", we have to consider your background knowledge and experiences when determining your starting ability.

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Choose the right English level for you!
Ensure you start at the right level - challenging, but not too hard! (Source: Moby Games)

A total beginner will need more time to learn, whilst someone who has already studied a little bit of English will take less time filling any gaps in their language skills.

However, your starting level isn't the only factor to keep in mind. 

Learning ability, memorisation and commitment

Everyone has a different capacity for memorisation.

The time it will take you to learn English depends on how good your memory is and how committed you are to the language learning process.

Learning English will give your memory a good workout; you need to learn lots of grammar rules, vocabulary, verb conjugations, idioms and expressions...

But if you struggle to memorise things, all is not lost! You can always improve your memory.

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Learn English faster by improving your memory!
To learn languages, train your brain and improve your memorisation (Source: Tech Technik)

There are plenty of ways you can start improving your memory, alongside improving your English writing skills. Before you start learning English, make sure you read up on memorisation and brain training techniques.

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German Teacher
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1st lesson free!
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1st lesson free!
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1st lesson free!
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The key to English learning: a passion for languages

The best language learners have one thing in common: they love learning languages, giving them an edge when it comes to learning English.

If we love a particular language, learning becomes easy and fun. This is true for any subject. Passion for the subject is the number one factor that determines your motivation. Naturally, we will be more motivated to invest time in our learning if we are pursuing a subject we love.

On the other hand, trying to learn something we find boring will be very difficult. You almost certainly had a subject you hated in school, and your brain simply couldn't soak up the information.

If you don't find yourself excited by English, try noting down the many advantages to speaking English in line with your professional or personal goals. You will find there are so many upsides to learning English!

If you keep in mind the amazing benefits waiting for you, you will be more likely to get motivated and stay motivated throughout your English learning.

Remember, when learning English, practice, practice practice...

When asking ourselves "How long will it take me to learn English?", it's common to think in terms of months and years until fluency. We want to hear a concrete answer like 2 years, 6 months, or even one month!

But really, you need to think in terms of the hours invested. You may say you've studied English for 5 years, but you only practice a couple of hours a month. This how many people can learn English throughout school and finish high school without being able to string a proper English sentence together.

The Takeaway:

  • Think in hours, not months or years. Many experts believe it takes between one thousand to two thousand hours of work to achieve English proficiency if you start at the very beginning.

Take your English learning one day at a time...
Work in small, regular intervals. (Source: Haiku Deck)
  • Regular work will be the key to your success. You should study in small, frequent bursts to give your brain the best chance to take in all the new language information. Regular study is best for optimum memorisation.

Figure out the best approach for you

Quantity and frequency are important, but the quality of your learning sessions is critical.

There are so many approaches to English learning, but they vary in quality and not every method will work for every learner.

You should adapt your learning program to your learning style by asking yourself: "How do learn best?"

This is because the effectiveness of your approach is dependant on you, the individual and your learning preferences. Before taking your first steps with English for beginners, take some time to study different learning methods and figure out which suits you best. However, when researching different learning methods, don't fall for "miracle" methods promising that you can learn a language fluently in six months working only ten minutes per day.

Books can be effective as well, but you won't get very far without outside support. Two of the best methods to improve your language skills are immersing yourself in an English-speaking country and taking some one-on-one English classes.

Immerse yourself in Anglophone countries

The fastest route to learning English is practice, practice, practice. You'll learn much quicker if you regularly practice rather than limiting yourself to doing worksheets or reading books.

A language immersion stay or exchange is a fantastic way to learn English. You can grow your skills through absolute immersion in classrooms, visiting cultural sites in the afternoons, and dining with your host family in the evenings. Language stays can be unforgettable, enriching experiences.

Would you like to learn English abroad?
Adventure - and language fluency - awaits! (Source: Positive Changes)

Immersion is amazing not only for your language skills but also for appreciating other cultures.

You may be looking for a way to learn English quickly, but as we've already mentioned language learning takes lots of time.

However, there is one secret to reducing this time: spending time immersed in English in English-speaking countries.

If adventure calls, you can take a look at our best destinations for learning English.

Take English classes with a specialist in ESOL

If you're still saving up for your language stay, but want all the benefits of conversation and pointers from a native speaker, you could benefit from taking private English lessons. You can also learn English online through English tutorials that support your study

Your personal English teacher will be able to tailor their program to your needs, as well as setting you up for independent study. Private tutorials are a wonderful way to maintain your motivation.

So how do you choose the right English tutor?

If you're reading this, you've probably already started learning English, so why not find out your level with quizzes or test your level of English formally with ESOL exams like IELTS and TOEFL?

With Superprof, you can choose from hundreds of private tutors near you, specialising in a diverse number of subjects. You will be able to find tutors in Melbourne, Sydney, or all over Australia to support your progress.

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Erin

Erin is an Australian francophile living in Paris. She is a music teacher, writer and passionate learner of languages.