How Long Does It Take to Learn Spanish?

Many people who have just decided that they want to learn Spanish ask this question. How long does it take to learn Spanish? Will I be able to communicate in Spanish on my next holiday? How long does it take to understand spoken Spanish at the rapid pace all native Spanish speakers tend to speak at?

How long does it take to learn Spanish?

Of course the time you will need to become conversational and then fluent in Spanish will depend on a number of factors. Knowing these factors will enable you to tilt them in your favour and speed up your efforts to learn Spanish. The factors are:

  • Your experience with learning foreign languages.
  • Your motivation for learning Spanish.
  • Time budget.
  • Exposure to native Spanish speakers.
  • Language learning tools you will use.

Experience with learning foreign languages

If Spanish is already the third or fourth foreign language you are trying to master (and assuming that you have successfully become fluent in the previously learned languages), you can expect to make progress much faster than someone who is learning Spanish as the very first foreign language ever.

Although of course the vocabulary and grammar rules differ from language to language, knowing how to manage and structure the foreign language learning process, how to organize your time, which tools to use, and how to maintain high motivation is a big advantage.

Needless to say, if you have successfully learned related languages like Italian, French, or Portuguese, learning Spanish will be even easier for you.

Motivation for learning Spanish

To a great extent, the reason why you are learning it will determine how long it will take to learn Spanish. If Spanish lessons are only part of a mandatory study curriculum and you have no special reason for learning Spanish on a personal level, your efforts and therefore also results will be much weaker. On the other hand, if the desire to learn Spanish comes from within you and you have a strong personal motivation for becoming fluent in Spanish, you will make progress amazingly fast. Some of the most powerful reasons include:

  • Love. Have you just met that special someone and the person happens to be a native Spanish speaker? This is a big motivation, especially when your partner's English is far from perfect.
  • Career opportunity. Maybe your boss has just offered you a great position in Mexico that promises to turn your career around. Power and money are always strong motivators.
  • Friends. You have met a wonderful group of people and you are having a great time with them. The only little problem is that all of them speak Spanish and they need to translate everything for you. Learning Spanish will not take long for you.

Time budget

Time is a scarce resource in these busy times. If you spend one hour per week learning Spanish, it will take years to become fluent. The more time you put in, the better results you get.

Exposure to native Spanish speakers

If you are living in a Spanish speaking environment on a daily basis, it will reduce the time it will take to learn Spanish significantly. If you can, try to spend at least a few weeks in a Spanish speaking country. Even when ordering in a restaurant or in a shop might be more complicated in the beginning, if you use the Spanish language often you will see great results quickly.

This will help you learn the more subtle, but equally important parts, such as pronunciation and non-verbal Spanish.

Spanish language learning tools

Using books or courses which have bad quality or are structured in a confusing way can impede your learning process. Spend time on choosing the right tools. If you can, take advantage of free trials of Spanish language courses to figure out what suits you best.

It is recommended to use multiple sources and combine Spanish textbooks with online courses, audio, and watch Spanish TV and movies. It is essential to get used to both written and spoken Spanish and learn both passive comprehension and active speaking.

So, how long does it take to learn Spanish? There is only one factor that really matters. And that factor is you.

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