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How long does it take to become fluent in a new language?

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How long does it take to become fluent in a new language?

Postby LarryLaffer » Sun Aug 07, 2011 12:24 am

Hi,

I'm trying to choose a country to move to and one of the factors to consider is how long it will take to learn a new language. I think I've narrowed it down to these countries:

Spanish speaking countries:
Chile
Argentina
Uruguay
Costa Rica
Panama

Russophone countries (speak Cyrillic languages or Russian)
Latvia
Lithuania
Estonia
Poland
Hungary
Bulgaria

Now I know it will take longer to learn a cyrillic language like Polish than it would to learn Spanish because Spanish uses the same alphabet as English. But what I don't know, is how much longer. The Russophone countries I listed have more attractive women but have a more difficult language to learn.

So my question is, as a native English speaker who doesn't know any other language:

1. How long would it take for me to learn Spanish? That is, learn it well enough that I can understand most of what people say in conversation?

2. How long would it take for me to learn a Cyrillic language, like Russian?


This is important because I'm having trouble deciding between the Spanish speaking countries and the East European countries. Eastern Europe has more attractive women but if it takes forever to learn the language than it would probably make more sense for me to just move to a Spanish speaking country.

Thanks!
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Postby E_Irizarry » Sun Aug 07, 2011 3:01 am

Call me a grouch, but I feel that you need to earn your answers by being a real contributor to this forum.

I just put another dude on blast yesterday about trying to bum off of us for information.

I'm tired of this pokerface shit you assholes come on here with. Like really.
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Postby well-informed » Sun Aug 07, 2011 3:25 am

That's alright Irizarry i feel the same way. They don't even introduce themselves nowadays. Can't tell if he's spamming the forum or have sincere intentions
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Postby odbo » Sun Aug 07, 2011 4:20 am

Spend a week learning the alphabet first then decide if you want to continue. I think languages like Finnish, whatever they speak in Estonia or Lithuania, and Chinese or Vietnamese, are much more challenging than latin or even slavic languages. It's a pretty dumb reason to go to South America instead of Europe because you were too lazy to study. Learn the alphabet, then download Pimsleur and get practicing. Rosetta Stone is crap.
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Postby DaRick » Sun Aug 07, 2011 5:14 am

Well, this guy doesn't appear to be the same as that other guy trolling for info about Brazil, because he hasn't made the same post a dozen times. An introduction would've been good, though.

Large numbers of Eastern European and South American women speak at least some English (at least at my age), but I would say that Eastern Europeans speak a bit more English on average.

To learn Spanish, I simply had Latin American friends help me (I also used the internet - websites like Enfourex and About.com were very helpful).

The ease of learning a language also depends on how old you are. It is easier when you are younger.

Poland and Hungary do not use the Cyrillic alphabet, BTW. Nor is Hungarian a Slavic language, though it is incredibly difficult to learn. You may be able to get by well with English and German in Eastern Europe and maybe know just enough of the local language to get by without being particularly fluent.
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Postby Think Different » Sun Aug 07, 2011 6:25 am

DaRick wrote:Well, this guy doesn't appear to be the same as that other guy trolling for info about Brazil, because he hasn't made the same post a dozen times. An introduction would've been good, though.

Poland and Hungary do not use the Cyrillic alphabet, BTW. Nor is Hungarian a Slavic language, though it is incredibly difficult to learn. You may be able to get by well with English and German in Eastern Europe and maybe know just enough of the local language to get by without being particularly fluent.


I'll bite: maybe this guy didn't know our conventions of discourse on here, but he does have several solid posts on here. I'll throw him a bone...

Larry,

As previously stated, if you don't know that only Bulgaria and Russia (from your list) are Cyrillic languages, you should stick with Spanish.

Eastern European Languages 101:

Latvia (they speak Latvian, which is a Baltic language related to Lithuanian and uses the Latin alphabet): difficult
Lithuania (they speak Latvian, which is a Baltic language related to Latvian and uses the Latin alphabet): difficult
Estonia (they speak Estonian, which is a Finno-Ugric language related to Finnish and uses the Latin alphabet): very difficult
Poland (they speak Polish, which is a SLAVIC language & Latin alphabet (they're all related): very difficult
Hungary (they speak Hungarian, which is a Finno-Ugric language and uses the Latin alphabet): very difficult
Bulgaria (they speak Bulgarian, which is a SLAVIC language, and uses the cyrillic alphabet): moderately difficult

For someone who doesn't know anything about languages, and still wants to go to Eastern Europe, try Slovio instead (www.slovio.com). Tip: don't speak Russian to the locals anywhere outside of Russia.

By comparison, Spanish is rated by the US State Dept. as one of the world's EASIEST languages for an American to learn. There is no real EASY language or HARD language. It's all a matter of perspective of the speaker's native language and how close the language being learned is linguistically to their native tongue . A Russian will find Bulgarian VERY easy, but English harder. An Italian would find English hard, but Spanish super easy. A Finn would find Estonian super easy, but Polish difficult. Got it?
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Postby DaRick » Sun Aug 07, 2011 7:00 am

Think Different wrote:
DaRick wrote:Well, this guy doesn't appear to be the same as that other guy trolling for info about Brazil, because he hasn't made the same post a dozen times. An introduction would've been good, though.

Poland and Hungary do not use the Cyrillic alphabet, BTW. Nor is Hungarian a Slavic language, though it is incredibly difficult to learn. You may be able to get by well with English and German in Eastern Europe and maybe know just enough of the local language to get by without being particularly fluent.


I'll bite: maybe this guy didn't know our conventions of discourse on here, but he does have several solid posts on here. I'll throw him a bone...

Larry,

As previously stated, if you don't know that only Bulgaria and Russia (from your list) are Cyrillic languages, you should stick with Spanish.

Eastern European Languages 101:

Latvia (they speak Latvian, which is a Baltic language related to Lithuanian and uses the Latin alphabet): difficult
Lithuania (they speak Latvian, which is a Baltic language related to Latvian and uses the Latin alphabet): difficult
Estonia (they speak Estonian, which is a Finno-Ugric language related to Finnish and uses the Latin alphabet): very difficult
Poland (they speak Polish, which is a SLAVIC language & Latin alphabet (they're all related): very difficult
Hungary (they speak Hungarian, which is a Finno-Ugric language and uses the Latin alphabet): very difficult
Bulgaria (they speak Bulgarian, which is a SLAVIC language, and uses the cyrillic alphabet): moderately difficult

For someone who doesn't know anything about languages, and still wants to go to Eastern Europe, try Slovio instead (www.slovio.com). Tip: don't speak Russian to the locals anywhere outside of Russia.

By comparison, Spanish is rated by the US State Dept. as one of the world's EASIEST languages for an American to learn. There is no real EASY language or HARD language. It's all a matter of perspective of the speaker's native language and how close the language being learned is linguistically to their native tongue . A Russian will find Bulgarian VERY easy, but English harder. An Italian would find English hard, but Spanish super easy. A Finn would find Estonian super easy, but Polish difficult. Got it?


Damn - I thought that my advice had several holes. Good stuff, RedDog/Think Different.
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Postby ladislav » Sun Aug 07, 2011 11:45 am

I was studying Spanish 2 hours a day and it took me 8 months to get to university level and then another 2-3 months to speak conversational Spanish fluently.
Tagalog, after about 6 months was still slow and intermittent, took me another 4 months to become fluent.
Spoken Japanese took me one year and a half to get to speak it well.
I guess Russian would take you some 12-15 months to be fluent in. In one of the above posts the gentleman says that you should not speak Russian outside of Russia. I must say that it is not totally true- you can speak Russian outside of Russia- say, Kazakhstan and Belarus and Eastern Ukraine speak Russian. In Bulgaria people understand Russian and many can speak it well.

Here is a full list:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_co ... l_language

You can learn Russian in Eastern Ukraine, it is just that you will have a funny accent- it would be like studying English in Ireland.
The most difficult skill is really not speaking but understanding what the people are saying since they slur and speak colloquially and use slang. That takes the longest.
Last edited by ladislav on Sun Aug 07, 2011 10:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby E_Irizarry » Sun Aug 07, 2011 12:46 pm

@Larry Laffer,

Okay, man. I apologize to you. It's just that people ask for information too quickly and are lurking in the woodwork.

From me personally, welcome to the forum. Make it your home. I act as the bulldog of H.A. sometimes.
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"The only way to overcome that is to go abroad to get a broad."
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"MGTOW resilience is the key to foreign residence. You better muthafuckin' ask somebody!!"
- E. Irizarry (2012)

"I rather be ostracized by 157.0 million (27.3% of the US of Gay pop), then to appease 1 feminist." - E. Irizarry (2013)

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Re: How long does it take to become fluent in a new language

Postby momopi » Sun Aug 07, 2011 2:07 pm

LarryLaffer wrote:So my question is, as a native English speaker who doesn't know any other language:
1. How long would it take for me to learn Spanish? That is, learn it well enough that I can understand most of what people say in conversation?
2. How long would it take for me to learn a Cyrillic language, like Russian?

This is important because I'm having trouble deciding between the Spanish speaking countries and the East European countries. Eastern Europe has more attractive women but if it takes forever to learn the language than it would probably make more sense for me to just move to a Spanish speaking country.
Thanks!


The US Department of State, Foreign Service Institute (FSI) has compiled a list of 63 languages into 3 categories for length of instruction. CAT I = 6 months, CAT II = 1 year, and CAT III = 2 years:

http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Wikibooks: ... h_Speakers

Spanish is CAT I, and Russian is CAT II. These estimates apply to the general population, individual cases will vary. Some people are savants at learning new languages, and some just "don't get it".

If you were to move to Latin America or Eastern Europe for the total language/cultural immersion experience, it's better than any classroom.
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Postby Jackal » Sun Aug 07, 2011 3:42 pm

There are several factors which influence how fast you can learn a language:
1) How different the target language is from your native language
2) How many resources are available to you about the target language in your native language (or in another language you speak)
3) How ideal your environment is for language learning.

1) I think this has already been discussed in general in this thread. I can speak a bit about why Hungarian is challenging, though.

Hungarian has lots of case endings for nouns, its word order is often the exact opposite than it is in English, it has postpositions instead of prepositions, it has two different conjugations for transitive verbs in each tense (which is twice the work), and it has several vowels and consonants which we don't have in English. Put it all together, and it's like trying to play chess while riding a motorcycle!

2) This is critical. It's extremely difficult to learn a difficult language when you have few books to help you. Mandarin and Russian are difficult languages, but at least there are tons of resources in English about them. Learning a more rare language like Hungarian is made even more challenging by the fact that there aren't many good books about it in English and many of these books don't explain many of the most advanced aspects of Hungarian grammar. In this situation, relying on intelligent native speakers who speak English to help you is key.

3) Not all environments are equally helpful for learning a language. Since I teach English, I have to constantly be distracted from my Hungarian by teaching English classes each day. It would be more beneficial for my Hungarian if I worked in a restaurant or someplace else where my job required me to speak Hungarian and where I would continuously hear Hungarian. This also depends on how easily you make friends in your new country. If you're alone a lot, it's obviously not so great for language learning. If you have lots of friends who you are interested in talking to, you will be motivated to learn the language faster.

Although I've been in Hungary for 3 years, I am not yet fluent in Hungarian because my job teaching English is a constant distraction, because only a few mediocre resources are available in English about Hungarian, and because I've just been studying it on and off. However, I can now understand most of what people say to me. But I'm still pretty slow replying. I know almost all the grammar, I just need to learn more vocab (I think I approached things backwards and I would recommend emphasizing vocab over grammar from the beginning).

But I would say that it's possible to become fluent in Hungarian in 2 or 3 years if you are in an ideal environment, you work hard at it, and you have excellent teachers from the beginning. The less ideal your situation and the less hard you work, the longer it will take.
Last edited by Jackal on Sun Aug 07, 2011 3:57 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: How long does it take to become fluent in a new language

Postby Jackal » Sun Aug 07, 2011 3:43 pm

momopi wrote:The US Department of State, Foreign Service Institute (FSI) has compiled a list of 63 languages into 3 categories for length of instruction. CAT I = 6 months, CAT II = 1 year, and CAT III = 2 years:

http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Wikibooks: ... h_Speakers

I think Winston should learn the Wu language! Lol
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Postby onezero4u » Sun Aug 07, 2011 4:30 pm

an advantage to spanish besides being relatively easy for native english speakers is that its a passport to around 20 countries which use it as their official language. more bang for your buck so to speak.

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Postby Jackal » Mon Aug 08, 2011 2:21 am

onezero4u wrote:an advantage to spanish besides being relatively easy for native english speakers is that its a passport to around 20 countries which use it as their official language. more bang for your buck so to speak.

Yes, if you're not attached to any particular country, then this is logical.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_mo ... untries%29
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_la ... e_speakers

Spanish has the additional benefit of helping you understand the other romance languages pretty easily, as well.

As far as Slavic languages go, Russian is the most widely spoken, but if you are interested in FSU countries which are west of Romania, you might be better off choosing some Slavic language which is in the middle of the region so that it will help you understand the other Slavic languages in nearby countries the most. Ladislav once talked about this, but I forgot what he suggested. Slovakian? Would that help you from Croatia to Poland?
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Postby Think Different » Mon Aug 08, 2011 6:33 am

"Slovakian? Would that help you from Croatia to Poland?"

I've posted about this before in the past. I speak Russian and Czech and here are the other Slavic languages I can or cannot understand to certain degrees:

Russian: yes
Czech: yes
Ukrainian: somewhat
Bylorussian: yes
Polish: somewhat
Slovak: yes
Slovenian: pretty well
Bosnian: practically nothing
Croatian/Serbian: practically nothing
Macedonian: practically nothing
Bulgarian: a little bit
Any others??? (Sorbian, Ruthenian, Silesian, etc. are minorities languages and not worth your time)

It seems to me that knowing Russian will help with the eastern Slavic languages and the western ones to a certain degree. The southern Slavic languages are too different. Like I said before, check out www.slovio.com and see how that strikes you. It's a manmade synthetic Slavic language that has a very basic grammar and is easy to learn, it appears. It has enough similarity to all the Slavic languages that you can make yourself understood. I know Ladislav (or one of the other Slavic guys on here) already stated on here that they understood it perfectly.

As a little anecdote, when I visited Poland, I used a fusion of Czech and Russian, mixed with the little bit of Polish that I know, and I made myself understood fine. I even went to a moviehouse, where they had a lecture before the movie (it was a classic) and I understood the lecture. If the people know you're a foreigner and are busting your hump to try to communicate, they'll be very accommodating, at least in my experience. Slovio should also give you enough of a Slavic foundation to springboard off of and to learn more unique vocabulary of whatever country you choose to go to.
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