¡Hola, amigas y amigos de SpanishCompadres.com! In this post, we’ll thoroughly answer the question “How long does it take to learn Spanish?”. Learning a language is an active investment of your most valuable and finite asset, which is time. Therefore, it is important to take the time factor into account when planning the learning of a new language. That way, you’ll know exactly when you’re ready to book your tickets to a Spanish speaking country, whether it’s in Europe or America, and impress everyone with your awesome level of Spanish.
How long does it take to learn Spanish? According to the Foreign Service Institute (FSI), it takes between 600 and 750 class hours (24 weeks) to achieve professional working proficiency in the target language. This information is based on the time US diplomats usually take to reach such level. A Spanish language learner may take shorter or longer depending on factors like the learner’s natural ability to learn a language, their previous linguistic experience, and guided learning time.
Note: In the FSI timelines, Spanish is a “category 1” language, meaning that it’s in the “languages more similar to English” group, along with Danish, Dutch, French, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Romanian, and Swedish. Learning any of these languages would take an average of 24 weeks. If you practice everyday for 24 weeks, it would take around 4.5 hours a day for you to achieve working proficiency (meaning you’d be able to land a job in which the target language is used).
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How long does it take to learn Spanish: A complete answer
A more complete answer to this question will depend on the level of language mastery you desire to achieve. In order to present a more detailed approach, we will use the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment (CEFR). This reference instrument was released by the Council of Europe in 2001. The CEFR uses descriptors or “can do” statements. These descriptors “specify progressive mastery of each skill, which is graded on a six-level scale (A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2)”.
Let’s look at what each level means and how long it would take you to go from one level to the next.
Spanish language levels explained
Levels A1 and A2 are called “Basic user”. In the textbook industry and other instruments they’re called “elementary”.
- A level 1 user “Can understand and use familiar everyday expressions and very basic phrases aimed at the satisfaction of needs of a concrete type. Can introduce him/herself and others and can ask and answer questions about personal details such as where he/she lives, people he/she knows and things he/she has. Can interact in a simple way provided the other person talks slowly and clearly and is prepared to help”.
- A level A2 user “Can understand sentences and frequently used expressions related to areas of most immediate relevance (e.g. very basic personal and family information, shopping, local geography, employment). Can communicate in simple and routine tasks requiring a simple and direct exchange of information on familiar and routine matters. Can describe in simple terms aspects of his/her background, immediate environment and matters in areas of immediate need”.
Levels B1 and B2 are called “independent user”. They’re also called “intermediate”.
- A level B1 user “Can understand the main points of clear standard input on familiar matters regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc. Can deal with most situations likely to arise whilst travelling in an area where the language is spoken. Can produce simple connected text on topics which are familiar or of personal interest. Can describe experiences and events, dreams, hopes & ambitions and briefly give reasons and explanations for opinions and plans.”
- A level B2 user “Can understand the main ideas of complex text on both concrete and abstract topics, including technical discussions in his/her field of specialisation. Can interact with a degree of fluency and spontaneity that makes regular interaction with native speakers quite possible without strain for either party. Can produce clear, detailed text on a wide range of subjects and explain a viewpoint on a topical issue giving the advantages and disadvantages of various options”.
Levels C1 and C2 are called “proficient user”. They’re also known as “advanced”.
- A level C1 user “Can understand a wide range of demanding, longer texts, and recognise implicit meaning. Can express him/herself fluently and spontaneously without much obvious searching for expressions. Can use language flexibly and effectively for social, academic and professional purposes. Can produce clear, well-structured, detailed text on complex subjects, showing controlled use of organisational patterns, connectors and cohesive devices.”
- A level C2 user “Can understand with ease virtually everything heard or read. Can summarise information from different spoken and written sources, reconstructing arguments and accounts in a coherent presentation. Can express him/herself spontaneously, very fluently and precisely, differentiating finer shades of meaning even in more complex situations”.
How long does it take to learn Spanish from A1 to A2
According to literature and to our own experience as language instructors, it would normally take around 120 class hours to reach level A1 and 120 hours to reach level A2. These numbers are cumulative. That means you can go from zero to A2 (CEFR basic user) in 240 class hours.
How long does it take to learn Spanish from A2 to B1
Going from elementary to pre-intermediate will take you around 280 hours. In total, an investment of 520 hours.
How long does it take to learn Spanish from B1 to B2
Earning your “independent user” medal will take you another 120 class hours. So, that’s 760 class hours in total.
How long does it take to learn Spanish from B2 to C1
Moving from level B2 to C1 will take another 120 practice hours. Cumulative sum: 880 hours.
How long does it take to learn Spanish from C1 to C2
Achieving native-like proficiency (CEFR proficient user) will demand another 120 language learning hours. Total class hours: 1,000.
Note: Keep in mind that these times are affected by the learner’s previous knowledge, exposure to language, and natural learning skills, among other factors.
Which Spanish language level is required for work
In order to get a job in a Spanish speaking setting and be proficient at it, your level should be at least C1. That means you need to undergo at least 880 hours of practice if you are a total beginner in Spanish. You can test your Spanish levels with any of the exams listed in the resources section of this article.
- FSI’s Experience with Language Learning: https://www.state.gov/key-topics-foreign-service-institute/foreign-language-training/
- Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment (CEFR): https://www.coe.int/en/web/common-european-framework-reference-languages
- Global scale – Table 1 (CEFR 3.3): Common Reference levels: https://www.coe.int/en/web/common-european-framework-reference-languages/table-1-cefr-3.3-common-reference-levels-global-scale
- Self-assessment grid – Table 2 (CEFR 3.3) : Common Reference levels (Spanish): https://rm.coe.int/CoERMPublicCommonSearchServices/DisplayDCTMContent?documentId=090000168045bb53
- 2019 Dele Exams, Deadlines and Exam Dates | Spanish Diplomas: https://www.dele.org/
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