The big question on everyone’s mind is, "How long will it take to get a firm grip on the English language?" What does it take to bridge the gap from memorising a couple of everyday English phrases to being a fluent English speaker?

And it’s a good question.

However, answering it isn’t so easy. There are a lot of things to consider before figuring out how soon you’ll be speaking English like it’s your mother tongue.

Do You Have Clear Goals?

For starters, what does speaking fluently mean to you? Are you hoping to improve your conversational English or are you hoping to speak confidently in a professional environment too?

Will you be using your English skills to further your education or are you just hoping to understand Hollywood movies without the subtitles on?

yellow and red darts on dartboard
Set yourself clear targets when you begin your journey towards learning English, it helps to have something to aim towards - Unsplash

Obviously, certain goals will require you to dedicate more time towards working on your English language skills. And if you’re a real beginner it’s going to take a little more effort than it would for students with more experience in speaking English.

The point is that fluency doesn’t happen instantly. Keep this in mind when you set your goals and don’t put unrealistic pressure on yourself. It’s just not worth it.

Only when you’ve reached an intermediate stage in your English grammar lessons should you start worrying about perfection. It takes practise to get the correct pronunciation and to expand your English vocabulary. Speaking English fluently comes with time and effort.

Start With These Simple Tips:

  • Watch English speaking films
  • Practise memorising new words and phrases
  • Keep assessing your progress
  • Focus on pronouncing words correctly

Have Patience and Don’t Let Frustration Get You Down

Learning a second language may be time consuming but it’s worth it.

There are various elements that will determine how much effort it’s going to take to improve your English.

Firstly, your home language plays a big factor when learning other languages.

For instance, a native Afrikaans speaker will find learning Dutch or German less challenging than learning Spanish or Xhosa. While a first-language English speaker will find learning Norwegian or Italian easier than learning Japanese.

But let’s stay focused on English for now.

The general consensus is that English is one of the easiest languages to learn simply because there are so many English resources. And most of the mainstream media is in English.

English verbs, tenses and conjugation are among the simplest of all the languages and English pronunciation is relatively straightforward.

However even though English pronunciation is easy enough, the difficulties arise when converting the written words from your textbooks into spoken words.

The English language is filled with a strange mix of confusing spelling that seems completely unrelated to the way we speak English. And every spelling rule has an exception. This unpredictable element is often the cause of great frustration to non-native English students.

What Is Your Standard of English Right Now?

If you want to master English then you need a game plan. Before you start taking English grammar lessons and joining online classes it’s important to take a little time to evaluate your abilities.

Generally, most budding ESOL students have some experience with English such as high school English classes.

But if you have no formal education in English then you really have to allow yourself the time to start with the basics and work your way towards English proficiency.

When deciding on your level language proficiency, be realistic and rather start off with a less challenging English course.

You’ll end up wasting your time by struggling to keep up or repeating a class that’s too advanced for you. And the last thing you want to do is get discouraged!

How Are Your Memorising Skills?

We all have different strengths and weaknesses when it comes to the learning process. Some people may find it easy to memorise new English words while others will quickly learn English vocabulary rules.

While learning any foreign language does require a great deal of memorisation, don’t be discouraged if that’s not your strength.

With time you’ll be able to commit all the sentence structure and new English words and phrases to memory. Memorising new vocabulary just takes longer for some than it does for others.

strain your brain written with letters and numbers
Remember that the brain is like a muscle and you can train and improve your memory skills - Unsplash

However, it is possible to improve your memorisation skills and there are a number of simple techniques that really make a big difference.

Do You Have a Natural Flair With Languages?

Some of us just seem to have the uncanny knack for learning new languages with great ease.

It’s not easy to enjoy doing something that you find extremely difficult. Learning is just so much easier when you love what you’re being taught and it comes with ease.

Sure, success is “99% perspiration and 1% inspiration”, but it isn’t easy believing this when you feel discouraged.

Still, even if you don’t have the natural aptitude for learning languages, it doesn’t mean you can’t learn English. Create your own motivation by taking some time to think about why you want to be able to communicate in English.

Perhaps you want to further your education in a foreign country or you may need good English skills for a new job. There’s always a great reason – and let yours be your motivation.

Consistency Is the Key to Great Results

It’s all fine and well to ask how long it takes to learn to speak English, but the reality is it could take three months or it could take three years. It really depends on you.

Someone can claim with great frustration that they’ve been trying to learn the English language for six years when in reality they’ve only spent an average of two hours a month dedicated to practising their speaking skills.

female runners on track
An athlete becomes fit through hours of consistent practice, the same is true when learning a new language - Unsplash

But a person who dedicates an hour to their English studies every day will achieve great results. Only one or two hours of practise daily and you could be speaking English proficiently in just a year.

For Successful Learning Stick to These Two Time Principles:

  1. Think hours, not years

To become proficient in English you can expect to spend anything between 1 000 and 2 000 hours of dedicated practice.

  1. Consistency is the trick

Make a habit of learning English daily. This will help you to retain information and build on new skills.

Figure Out a Learning Strategy That Works for You

It’s not just about a how many hours you invest into your English studies or how consistently you practise your speaking skills. It’s just as crucial to discover a learning style that works for you.

The techniques for learning a new language are limitless and there’s no superior approach. Invest some time in trying out different online courses that use a variety of teaching methods before you commit to anything.

There’s no “one size fits all” answer and don’t be fooled by quick-fix promises that claim you can learn English in a few months by merely practising for ten minutes every day.

Whatever method you find that works for you, just remember time and consistency are still the ultimate deciding factors on your success.

Learn to Speak English by Living Overseas

While reading and writing English has its value, this alone is not terribly effective. There’s a general consensus that immersing yourself in an English speaking culture is probably the quickest way to learn another language.

If the immersion strategy isn’t a viable option, another alternative is to attend privately arranged English classes. This way you’re guaranteed to expand your speaking skills.

Of course it’s important to practise your reading and writing skills but the ultimate goal is learning how to speak in English. This can only happen with consistent speaking practice.

For this reason, a language vacation in a country where English is the official language is one of the best solutions to rapid learning.

blue skies and clouds above statue of liberty
Consider planning a trip to an English speaking country like the United States to challenge your speaking skills - Unsplash

Imagine the benefits you’ll reap if you are able to attend English lessons every day followed by sightseeing trips where you are obliged to communicate in English exclusively.

If you participate in a language exchange programme then you’ll have the opportunity to live with a host family. This means you’ll wake up to English conversation from morning until night.

Staying in an English speaking country such as England, Ireland or the USA will end up being so much more than just a language learning experience. An experience like this will be culturally enriching too.

Simply put, if you want to learn to speak English quickly then you need to speak English chiefly. And obviously an extended vacation in an English-speaking country is your best solution.

Consider Hiring an Online Tutor or Attending ESOL Classes

The great thing about English vacations is that you have endless opportunities to speak with native English speakers.

But if an overseas trip isn’t possible, there’s another option: a personal tutor who can teach you in the comfort of your own home.

men seated at table working on laptops
Sometimes a personal tutor is just the thing you need to help you achieve your learning objectives - Unsplash

Hiring a private English tutor is a wonderful alternative to group classes because you will receive tailor-made language instruction that addresses your personal strengths and weaknesses.

Many students find one-on-one lessons less intimidating than big classes, especially for those that aren’t confident in their speaking skills and are afraid of making mistakes.

You’ll also find that less time will be wasted on unnecessary lessons and you can skip over topics that you’re familiar with.

Now the big question is, “Who’s going to be your tutor?”

Need an ESOL (English) teacher?

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Born from a family of creatives, Kyla has a passion for the arts and interior design.