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How fast can you become fluent in English?

"How many lessons/hours do I need to speak English fluently?" I get this question a lot, so let's break this down in hopes that it helps you understand a reasonable timeline.

Before I became an English teacher, so over 10 years ago, I spent almost three years learning French. I'd study for many hours almost every single day doing my homework. Do I speak French now? Not at all. I cannot even have a basic conversation.

How did this happen? I did things that were not at all effective. I was studying a lot and just trusting that my teacher knew what she was doing, but the truth is that she didn't. She used outdated methods that don't take into account how the brain works and how learning a foreign language works.

I know better now, but back then I didn’t. I just went through the motions of learning - lessons, homework, lessons, homework, lessons, homework... You get the picture.

There's millions of people like me - spending years or even decades trying to learn a foreign language but never actually learning it. Doing something is not the same as doing something useful.

So that's the first important point - someone studying in a way that makes methodological sense would have achieved a lot in 3 years. I achieved almost nothing. That's one of the reasons why now I care so much about giving my students exactly what they need to learn efficiently and effectively - so this doesn’t happen to them.

Now, assuming you’re a pro at studying with the best methods and techniques in mind, the amount of time you need depends on the following things:

▪️ how much time do you spend on lessons with a teacher?

▪️ how much homework do you do?

▪️ how fast do you learn?

▪️ how much information can your short-term memory hold at once?

▪️ are you extroverted or introverted?

▪️ do you expect to feel motivated or do you know that motivation comes and goes and discipline is what you need?

▪️ do you know how to properly build habits?

▪️ what is your current level?

▪️ what level do you want to reach? (“fluent” can mean different things to different people)

▪️ how much English is there in your life — do you speak it at work? Do you read in English? etc.

▪️ do you hope to improve all the skills or is there something you don’t think you need? (E.g. some people couldn’t care less about writing)

It takes somewhere around 200 “guided learning hours” aka lessons for a language learner to go from one level of the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) to the next.

It’s around 1000-1200 hours to go from zero to hero.

For most people, it’s years.

On top of this, memory consolidation may take years. This means that things that you’ve already worked on and think you’ve learned are not actually going to become available for fluent use for quite some time, and there is no magic pill to accelerate memory consolidation. But that’s a topic for a different post.

Hope this helps you understand why it's so hard for someone to just throw an answer at you that will make you feel good. The truth is that it depends.

Hope you can find the right English teacher to help you improve efficiently and in an enjoyable way. If you want to sign up for my online 1-1 lessons, message me:

Tina is a professional English Teacher with a Cambridge education and 10+ years of teaching English to adults in-person and online.

She wants you and English learners like you to develop a solid understanding of what you need to do to start speaking better English faster (and not fall for English-in-a-month scams).


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