How long does it REALLY take to learn English?

If you’ve even started reading this article, I know you’ve invested a significant amount of time in your English studies already. But how long does it really take to learn English? More specifically, how long does it take to become a fluent speaker of English? You’ve no doubt seen many estimates, anywhere from 1 month to 2,000+ hours (or nearly 9 years if you broke that down into 5 hrs/week!). So how long does it really take to speak fluently? What’s a reasonable timeline for English fluency and how can it be achieved within that time frame? 


What’s a reasonable amount of time to spend weekly?

Before we get into the more overwhelming units of months and years it takes to learn a language, let’s consider the more important and practical measurement: the number of hours you study per week.  

If you are determined to speak English fluently (ie. confidently and comfortably), you’ve probably gone through that phase where you planned, and even started, to study 5+ hours/week.

How did that work out for you? 

For most of us, that’s simply not sustainable considering the other obligations we have in life. So back to reality – what is a total doable plan? How much time are successful language learners actually investing on a weekly basis? Ask around and you’ll find that 2-3 hours per week can produce tangible results – no doubt because this is a more attainable, likely scenario for most of us.  

Making reasonable assumptions, how long does it really take to learn English? 

As a language learner myself, I’ve tested out those “magic pill” promises, and I hate to break it to you: there’s no get-fluent-quick solution. Learning a language requires commitment, focus and time. No matter the method you choose to learn English, it will take hundreds of hours to reach fluency.

Good news? Fluency doesn’t have to be 9 years away.

From what I’ve experienced as both a language learner and English teacher, it’s common for students to improve by about 2 CEFR levels per year with the help of a quality learning program. Yes, your current English level, native language and personal learning style will play a role in how quickly you reach fluency. But on average, assuming you’re willing to dedicate your time and effort to improve, you could realistically go from a B1-level speaker to fluency in about 2.5 to 3 years. 


What’s wrong with the promises that many online programs make?

English learning programs that guarantee fluency in a few months (like Lingoda) are selling you an unattainable solution. I hate to burst anyone’s bubble, but if you’re a B1 student, you cannot reach complete, effortless English fluency in 3 months. It’s simply not possible. 

Need we say any more on the ‘zero to intermediate in 30 days’ promises? (Looking at you, Pimsleur). 


What can you do about it? 


  • Don’t pick fast solutions. They’re just a marketing tactic. 

You will end up spending more money and making less progress. Again, English fluency doesn’t happen overnight. Yes, I know a $10 30-day English course online looks promising and affordable.  But does it offer you the opportunity to actually practice speaking with someone? Does it give you actual outcomes? 

Then why do you think it would help you?  

If you choose the cheapest thing out there, there are no commitments, no accountability.  You need to really want to solve the problem or you don’t. If you don’t, don’t waste your money.  


  • Set reasonable milestones. You are in for a long ride

If you choose any English program expecting to become fluent in just a few months, you’re just setting yourself up for disappointment. What’s worse, not reaching your goal could easily lead to giving up on your English studies altogether. There are no two ways about it: to reach fluency, you need an effective program with a sustainable schedule and a realistic timeline for your progress. 


  • Do it for you. 

If you’re learning just to impress others with your mad skills, English is the wrong language choice. There is little vanity effect in learning English because many, many people speak it. If you are in it for the fame/pride/vanity, learn a more “exotic” language. Think about why are you really learning this language. What value does it have to you?  Use that to motivate you.  


  • You need a human, and preferably a community, to carry on. 

Again, take a second (very suspicious) look at those programs promising fluency without actual speaking practice –  with a real person. These programs may encourage speaking to yourself…but how many people actually do that?  Ok, let’s say you do speak to yourself. Is that the road to fluency? Could you become a pro wrestler without ever actually wrestling another person? A master chef if nobody had ever tasted your cooking?

If you want to become fluent in English, look for programs that put emphasis on speaking practice – and feedback! For example, if the curriculum is divided into the skill sets of reading, writing, listening and speaking, you should look for one that is at least 50% speaking practice. Of course, spending time on the other skills is helpful, but that doesn’t allow for the same level of fast-paced interactive learning as speaking with a native English speaker does.


Why SpeakUp


If you speak English at an intermediate or advanced level (B1-C2) and you want to achieve fluency, SpeakUp is the way to go. Here are just a few reasons why SpeakUp is a step above the competition:


Focus on Speaking Practice 

Sessions are organized so that every student gets a chance to speak and interact with others while also receiving individual feedback from a highly qualified and experienced instructor. SpeakUp students also have unlimited access to our lesson library, which includes video simulation exercises that you can get personalized expert feedback on with the click of a button. 


An effective and efficient earning program

With SpeakUp, you can choose from multiple sessions available every week. Each live session focuses on one of the five elements of fluency: pronunciation/prosody, grammar, vocabulary, articulation, and social skills. We recommend that our students try out at least one of each session type in their first month – in fact, we provide you with a varied study plan to start with. Once you’ve tried them all out, however, you’re free to focus on the types of classes that could help you the most. If you’re not sure what kind of classes you need, simply ask your instructor! Every three months, we encourage you to join a live “assessment” session to get feedback on your progress and tips on where to go from there.


Affordable, high-quality solution – with a fluency guarantee!

By holding speaking sessions in small groups, we can make sure that we offer the lowest hourly rate of any other English speaking program out there. However, we don’t sacrifice quality to cut costs. In fact, all of our instructors are trained English teachers with years of experience in the field. When teachers and staff have to help you attain English fluency to live up the program’s promise, they are much more likely to provide the kind of support and feedback you need to see consistent improvement. 


Tired of false promises, unrealistic timelines and cheap programs that don’t deliver results? If you really want to improve your English speaking and are ready to commit at least 2 hours a week to start levelling up – with the support of first-rate teachers and a global community –  sign up for a 7-day free trial with SpeakUp today!


Anita Collins

Anita Collins

Anita is a long-time English teacher and language enthusiast from Canada, currently living in the multilingual city of Montreal. She majored in linguistics, dabbled in translation, and has been teaching students from all over the world for over a decade. She now spends each morning trying to balance her two loves: planning the next trip and spoiling her beagle. The rest of her day she spends on curriculum design and language classes, with the beagle underfoot.
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