How long does it take to learn German? After some thorough research, we have an answer! Find out the estimated time you’ll need and how to speed up the process.
This is how long it will take you to learn German
According to the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) of the US, it takes 36 weeks or 900 class hours to learn German. This estimation is based on native English speakers and the institute’s courses and methods. So, unless you’re a US diplomat being trained by the FSI, this time frame might not apply to you.
Several other elements can influence how long it takes you to learn German. And there are steps you can take to speed up your progress.
The rest of this article will give you a more accurate understanding of how long it should take you to learn German, based on 6 different factors that impact language learning. We’ll also show you how you can accelerate your journey to German fluency in 6 ways.
How long it takes to learn German – 6 influencing factors & 6 speedy solutions
1. Level of fluency you want to reach
Let’s start with a fundamental question: How fluent do you want to be in German?
Depending on your answer, the time you’ll need to learn German will be shorter or longer. For example, a person who wants to learn enough German to teach Advanced Physics in Berlin will probably take more time than someone who’s only looking to impress the locals at Oktoberfest.
Solution: Define your level of fluency
Choosing your personal fluency goal will help you determine how long it will take you to learn German. That way, you can choose the right methods, tools, and vocabulary to help you get there.
Start by defining what that fluency looks like, then set milestones to measure your progress and reach your final goal. For instance, you can periodically test your German proficiency with online tests like this one.
Read more about defining your personal fluency in our article on the Fastest Way To Learn a Language.
2. Your native language
Your native language will influence how long it takes you to pick up German. This is because closely related languages often have similar writing systems and grammar rules, and they share a high number of cognates, or similar-sounding words with the same meaning.
For example, a Dutch speaker will have an easier time learning German than a Chinese native speaker. Dutch and German have similar grammatical structures and share a lot of cognates. On the other hand, Chinese uses an entirely different alphabet and writing system.
The good news for native English speakers is that German is one of the easiest language options for them. German and English belong to the Germanic family of languages, sharing many similarities. Remember the FSI? Well, it ranks German as a category 2 language, which also indicates that it’s one of the easier languages out there.
In fact, German is so straightforward to grasp that it made the cut for our 6 easiest languages to learn for English speakers.
Solution: Focus on the hard bits of German
If your native language is completely different from German, try focusing on its tricky bits – like its separable and modal verbs. You can learn more about those difficult parts in our guide to The Best Way To Learn German.
If German and your native language share very few cognates, choose more efficient ways to learn vocabulary. For example, instead of using direct translations, use flashcards with images, drawings, and pictures to help increase your vocab uptake speed and duration. Additionally, you could focus on learning from frequency lists, which consist of the most commonly used words in a language.
The Fluent Forever app automates the process of creating vocabulary and grammar flashcards with images. At the same time, our patented spaced repetition system (SRS) algorithm generates review sessions based on your past performance, letting you focus on the words you need more help with. What’s more, the vocabulary in our app is based on our very own frequency list of 625 words.
3. Exposure to German
The amount of German you’re exposed to will affect how long it takes you to learn it. For example, a non-native speaker who lives in Berlin will probably pick up German fairly quickly compared to a person living in Tokyo.
Moreover, if it’s hard for you to access quality German resources like books, movies, series, native speakers, and audio tools, learning the language will take longer.
Solution: Immerse yourself in German
Once you have enough German under your belt, consume as much German media as possible. Supplement your studies with learning resources like grammar books, frequency dictionaries, and audio support. You can start by checking out the excellent resource section on our Best Way To Learn German page.
Ideally, you should go and spend some time in Germany to see, speak, and hear German 24/7. But if this is out of the question, try to create self-immersion in your everyday life. Here are some activities you can try:
- Follow cooking recipes in German
- Talk to yourself in German (We promise it works!)
- Switch your phone’s language settings to German
- Work or volunteer at a place frequented by German speakers
- Label things around your house with their German words
4. Time to practice
The more time you spend learning German, the faster you will learn and master it. Additionally, quality study time trumps long but inconsistent sessions.
However, any amount of time you dedicate to language learning will be useful – there’s no right or wrong number of hours. Some people can do an hour a day, while others can manage 20 minutes of studying in their lunch break.
Solution: Commit to a schedule
Like we said, every minute counts when it comes to learning German or any other language. So, regardless of how much time you have, make sure every precious moment you invest in improving your German matters.
Set a schedule and commit to the allotted time. Try to remove every distraction that takes you away from your studies. Lastly, don’t feel bad if you can only spend 15 minutes a day studying. Remember, slow and steady wins the race.
Here are 4 nifty time management tools for language learners you can use to make the most of your German practice sessions.
5. Motivation and attitude
Naturally, the more motivated you are, the faster you’ll learn German. Alternatively, lacking motivation will slow down your progress.
Staying motivated is a fundamental way of shortening how long it takes you to learn German. However, we all have bad days, and being excited to learn every day is not realistic. So finding ways to stay pumped up about learning German is key, especially when you’re doing it by yourself.
Solution: Work with a language tutor
A language tutor will supercharge your journey to German fluency with personalized, 1-on-1 lessons. More importantly, they will keep you accountable for your progress and excited about learning.
Our Coaching program pairs you up with a native German speaker certified in Fluent Forever’s proven language teaching methodology. By customizing your sessions to reflect your hobbies, interests, and personal fluency goals, your coach will motivate you to stay on track and to keep learning German through the program and beyond.
6. Choice of learning method
The method you rely on to learn German can either speed up or hamper your progress. Choosing the wrong system to study the language will unnecessarily lengthen the time required to master it.
For example, using some language learning software and apps can often give you a comfortable and flexible yet incomplete experience. While most of these tools teach you vocabulary and grammar, they often fail to teach you proper pronunciation.
And when it comes to learning vocabulary and grammar, doing so through direct translations is inefficient and can make you forget words easily.
Solution: Learn German with Fluent Forever
The Fluent Forever method is a proven 4-step system of language learning that provides the fastest way to learn a language with the longest retention. Using our proprietary app and Live Coaching will help speed up your journey to German fluency in record time.
Step 1 – We rewire your ears through in-app pronunciation tests to help you identify German sounds. These exercises will make picking up and retaining new vocabulary easier.
Step 2 – With your ears rewired, you learn key German vocabulary through the amazing power of flashcards. The Fluent Forever app makes creating flashcards incredibly easy, and will generate personalized review sessions based on your performance.
Step 3 – With some vocabulary under your belt, you learn German grammar using the words you already know. Additionally, you can create and add custom flashcards in the app for new words and phrases you come across.
Step 4 – Having grasped the basics, it’s time to practice with a native speaker. Our Live Coaching program pairs you up with your very own language coach. They’ll build personalized sessions based on your goals and interests, getting you to speak frequently and improving your conversational skills in the process.
And there you have it! Remember, how long it takes to learn German depends greatly on you! The sooner you start, the better.
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