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Time Required to Learn a Language according to FSI

October 7, 2011 – 4:49 pm

The FSI (Foreign Service Institute) is a US government organization to educate government employees, especially diplomats and politicians, in foreign languages and cultures. As part of their work, they set up a list of languages and their estimated times until fluency. I think the times listed are to short, but it’s only the time in class. You have to add more time for homework, repetition and actual language practice with native speakers. Feel free to multiply by 2 or 3. The list is aimed at native speakers of English, but I think it is useful as an estimate for anyone. While the list isn’t ideal to estimate required learning times, it is pretty good to find out how much effort one language takes compared to another one.

Without further ado, here is the list of time required to learn a language according to the FSI:

23-24 weeks (575-600 class hours)
Afrikaans
Catalan
Danish
Dutch
French
Galician
Italian
Norwegian
Portuguese
Romanian
Spanish
Swedish

30-36 weeks (750-900 class hours)
German
Indonesian
Javanese
Jumieka
Malay
Swahili

44 weeks (1100 class hours)
Albanian
Amharic
Armenian
Azerbaijani
Belarusian
Bengali
Bosnian
Bulgarian
Burmese
Cebuano
Croatian
Czech
Dzongkha
Estonian
Finnish
Georgian
Greek
Gujarati
Hebrew
Hindi
Hungarian
Icelandic
Ilocano
Irish
Kannada
Kazakh
Kurdish
Kyrgyz
Khmer
Lao
Latvian
Lithuanian
Macedonian
Marathi
Nepali
Pashto
Persian (Dari, Farsi, Tajik)
Polish
Punjabi
Russian
Serbian
Sinhalese
Slovak
Slovenian
Somali
Tagalog
Tamil
Telugu
Tetum
Thai
Turkish
Turkmen
Ukrainian
Urdu
Uzbek
Vietnamese
Xhosa
Zulu

88 weeks (2200 class hours)
Arabic
Cantonese
Japanese
Korean
Mandarin
Mongolian
Taiwanese (Hokkien Min Nan)
Wu

I found the list on Wikibooks, but they don’t give a link to the original. I can only assume that the original is a print document.

According to the list, Chinese takes 88 weeks or 2200 hours. Thats 1.5 years, with 25 class hours per week. Ad in more learning time outside class, then this is like a stressful full time job. You can get some results in such a time frame, but it’s only realistic for people who don’t work and can stay in China.

Tip of the day:
Awesome people prefer to study languages that take at least 2200 class hours.

  1. 2 Responses to “Time Required to Learn a Language according to FSI”

  2. Your website loads lightning fast.

    By AOA on Oct 8, 2011

  3. Yes, Chinese beats all the other langauges almost and plus consider the time that you will have to spend revising the things that you learnt once and the forgot! So it;s really a lot!

    By Learn Chinese in China on Dec 16, 2011

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