How long does it take to learn English?

A beginner can learn English in a year. That’s pretty fast, although not as fast as some of the crazy 15-day promises you see online. Specifically, a year is the average amount of time it will take an adult to become fluent enough to work in English if he starts out as a beginner and studies at least 5 hours a day. But everyone is different.

How long it will take you to learn English depends on many things:

  • Your current level of English
  • The level of English you need (Hint: for most people, upper intermediate is enough)
  • Which languages you already speak
  • If you’re living in an English-speaking country
  • How hard you study
  • How much you practice
  • How good you are at learning languages

The best way to estimate how long it will take you personally to learn English is to figure out the number of hours it will take to go from the level you are now to the level you want to be.

  1. To find out what your current level is, test your English. This test will give you a score on the CEFR scale, which has six levels from A1 to C2.
  2. Decide which level of English you need. Most people need a B2 level to work in English, but that depends on your job and the country you’re working in. Here are some descriptions of the CEFR levels and what you can do with each one.
  3. Calculate how many hours it will take you to get from the level of English you have to the level of English you need. Here’s a little table for reference:
    Level of English (CEFR) Number of hours of instruction
    Zero to A1 100-150 hours
    A1 to A2 100-150 hours

    From A1:
    200-300 hours
    A2 to B1 100-200 hours

    From A1:
    300-500 hours
    B1 to B2 150-200 hours

    From A1:
    500-700 hours
    B2 to C1 200-250 hours

    From A1:
    700-950 hours
    C1 to C2 200-250 hours

    From A1:
    900-1200 hours

    So if you’re currently a beginner and you need to reach a B2 level, that’s 600-850 hours of instruction. Add another 50% to these estimates if you only speak one language and it’s a language quite different from English (for example Chinese, Arabic, Japanese, Korean)

  4. Divide the total hours into days to see how long it will take you to learn English. In the above example, taking an English class for 1 hour per week, you would need 600-850 weeks or 11-16 years to learn English! However, if you take an English immersion course with 5 hours or lessons a day plus 2 more hours of studying and practice, it would take just 100 days for you to learn English. Assuming you don’t have classes on weekends, that’s about 6 months.

Hopefully this brief guide has helped you make a rough estimate of how long it will take you to learn English. And remember: the sooner you start, the sooner you finish.