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  • Writer's picturegeoff

Will YOU Learn A Language In 6 Months...or 42 YEARS?

See the video version here:

Language learning has a lot to do with math.

If you study for one hour a week, that is a grand total of 52 hours a year—more than 2 full days. But does that actually sound like a lot of time? Imagine instead we try learning for an hour a day. Now we’re getting 7 hours a week. In 2 months, we’ve already done more than double our first scenario. In fact, that 365 hours a year.

At that same time, 7 hours a week means 7 hours out of 168. Or 364 hours a year…out of a possible 8760. You probably getting an idea of the problem.

The US government has a school that trains diplomats on languages. They’ve been doing it for more than 70 years, so they have a lot of data. They group languages based on difficulty for English learners. The easiest languages to learn to “professional working proficiency” include Danish, Romance languages, Dutch. For an average American, they’ll need a minimum of 600 hours just for these easiest languages.

For languages with a completely different writing system, like Mandarin, Arabic, or Korean? Now we’re talking 2200 hours minimum. And it generally backwards, too—Spanish speakers learning English will have an easier than Chinese learners studying English. That one hour a day approach means about 2 years for easier languages. 6 years for harder languages. One hour a week means almost 12 years to learn an easier language…and…42 years for the hardest.

I’m not saying these numbers to discourage. I’m saying these numbers to encourage.

By just incorporating a little more English into your day, you are dramatically speeding up the learning process. And it doesn’t have to be all at once. Instead of doing an hour in the morning, maybe you can do 30 minutes in the morning. 5 minutes at lunch. 20 minutes while you work out at the gym. 15 minutes while you eat dinner. You can learn a language in one year, or less, to proficiency.

In fact, these government courses that arrived at these numbers are doing it in as little as 24 weeks. But they’re also being efficient with time, right, because an hour of English isn’t always as effective as even 30 minutes.

An hour of watching a movie with subtitles where you’re not even listening to the language is not as effective as 15 minutes of a movie pausing, rewatching, trying to copy what the characters are saying, rewinding and watching again, writing down a new vocab word you heard.

What are other ways to add a little more language into your life? Well… Try these 11 things! 1) Switch your browsers and apps into your target language 2) On your commute listen to the language 3) Use a site like to find online events/classes in a country that speaks the language 4) Volunteer at colleges/universities/exchange programs to teach English speakers YOUR language 5) Create 1 new vocab flashcard every day 6) Talk to your kids/family members in the language, even if you are B1/B2 7) Write conversations with ChatGPT and other chatbots 8) Start a Youtube channel, blog, vlog, or other content that uses the language 9) Use a site like to record yourself speaking 10) Make a mistake goal: e.g., you can’t go to bed until you make 3 verb tense mistakes in a day 11) Talk a class with me, or an italki teacher, or anyone online In fact, I’ll be honest with you, this issue with time is why I created Mission: English.

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